Developing customer trust and loyalty; the lynchpin for long-term success

Columnists | Technology
Greg Le Tocq

Trust, as the old quote says, makes the world go ‘round. Once that customer trust is gone, there are ten competitors waiting to pick up after you.

Trust, in my opinion, boils down to three things. Provide what the customer is expecting, deliver on promises made, and act in a consistent manner. Take one of those aspects away, the whole infrastructure behind that hard-earned trust is eroded – making your business offering that much weaker.

Take McDonald’s as an example. While their products aren’t graced with a Michelin star, their food is exactly what the customer expected when they ordered (expectation). It stops them being hungry (delivering on promises), and things happen exactly the same regardless of which branch you visit – or even in which country you are visiting that branch in (consistency).

The core business focus must, at every moment, combine revenue considerations with long-term thinking.

Many businesses do not have as much of a customer focus as they think they do. Whether the focus of that business is B2B or B2C, there’s always a customer at the end of the pipeline. A common pitfall is putting revenue growth before the customer’s needs, which in turn can lead to negative interactions, bad experiences and impact overall reputation.

Developing visible, verifiable trust

A key part of building and maintaining trust is to minimise the number of potentially negative touchpoints throughout the customer journey. Another is having the ability to capture customer feedback and act quickly and effectively to resolve issues.

Reviews – both internal and external – are vital for the latter point. Sites like Trustpilot and Reviews.co.uk mean that customers can lean on social proof – word of mouth in the social media age – when making purchasing decisions. Good reviews, naturally, mean a good end-product and a good experience with the company.

However, it’s important to note that bad reviews, contrary to popular opinion, can also be a good thing. They allow the opportunity for you, as a business, to showcase how well you deal with things when they’ve not gone perfectly.

Beyond that, things like website design, page speed, optimisation and Google rankings all play a part. Consumers in this market are savvy enough to tell the difference between a company that promotes itself well, and a company that doesn’t – it’s indicative of the overall effort levels throughout the business.

If that organisation isn’t investing the time to make themselves look good, what does that say about the customer experience? Given the choice, shoppers will invariably do business with the former.

The interlinking between competition and trust

With the advent of internet-enabled companies, the ‘take it or leave it’ approach of yesteryear is no longer an option. Local monopolies – like the specialist store down the road – are falling by the wayside. Whereas in the past, shoppers would need to travel great distances to secure the product that they want, today they can hop on their computer or phone, and have that same item delivered the very next day.

In short, competition is not limited by geographical proximity; instead by the reputation of a company, the quality of the product it offers, and their reliability in delivering on that promise time and time again.

Trust is the differentiating factor between similar businesses today, and it’s vital that brands integrate these strategies into their offerings if they are to stay ahead of the competition.

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