Updated: Jun 4
As we shift to a digital world where everybody is an "expert", the need to establish trust with your customers has never been so important.
The internet has allowed customers to have more choice than ever, allowing them to easily compare different products and to also form an opinion in something according to other customer reviews. It's ultimately lead customers to treating brands as a commodity, willing to shift their allegiance at the drop of a hat.
Why is customer trust important?
Because of the fact that brands are now treated as a commodity, we would argue that establishing customer trust is the single most important factor for sustaining business in the long-term. It's often the reason why one company will outcompete another.
Put simply, trust drives customer loyalty. Customer loyalty leads to customer longevity & customer referrals, ultimately creating a flywheel effect for your business.
From the eyes of your customers, trust enhances their purchase decision-making process, increases their advocacy for your brand, and establishes an emotional connection.
Additionally, as data privacy continues to be put under the spotlight, customers will want know to know that they are working with a reliable company that will not scam them or put their personal information at risk.
How can I measure customer trust in my organisation?
Unfortunately, customer trust cannot be measured simply by asking the customer whether they trust your organisation. There are a number of drivers (or levers) which an organisation has to get right in order for a customer to have trust.
Trust is like an onion - it has many layers - with each layer contributing to an overall feeling of trust, or distrust for your business.
The other thing to acknowledge is that trust takes time to establish but can be lost in an instance. Research from PWC has indicated that 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one negative experience - this is evidence how quickly trust can be lost.
The 4 levers (drivers) of customer trust
From our research (and experience working across a number of different organisations), we've identified 4 key levers of customer trust;
Relationships - Customers want to speak to someone who understands their needs. It's particularly helpful when they can establish a connection with someone in an organisation, meaning that they don't have to continually repeat their situation all of the time.
Integrity - It's extremely important for an organisation to do what they say they're going to do. If a customer is promised a call back within 48 hours, this call back should be made, regardless of whether an update is available, or not. Research from McKinsey shows that customers are content with longer wait times, as long as they're provided an update throughout the process!
Consistency - Customers become frustrated when there are different answers depending on who they speak to. Messaging and decision making should be the same, no matter who they speak to.
Expertise - Customers expect to be able to speak to an expert in the field. The organisation must know what they are talking about OR must leverage insights from the experts in a tidy fashion.
In addition to the 4 levers above, providing an empathetic response to any situations where customers demonstrate vulnerability is critical to establishing trust. The process of establishing trust occurs like this:
Step One: Customer shows some form of vulnerability i.e. they are disgruntled, they require help, they have a need.
Step Two: Organisation provides an empathetic response to the vulnerability i.e. they demonstrate that they care by resolving the situation, or going out of the way for the customer.
Step Three: The empathetic response generates a feeling of safety from the customer, ultimately forming a bond of trust, ensuring they will come back in their next time of need / vulnerability.
How can I quantify / calculate customer trust?
Ok so we now understand the levers of trust. That still doesn't answer how we can quantify, or calculate customer trust in an organisation!
Wait no more...Below, we have listed a number of actual questions that you can begin to include in your CSAT or NPS surveys which will directly allow you to measure the levers / drivers of customer trust.
Capturing data on all four quadrants of the trust score will allow your organisation to better understand what elements of the trust quadrant you're good at and where there are opportunities to improve. It is integral that you obtain data from each trust lever so you can aggregate results and formulate a Trust Score for your business;
I always know who to contact
My requests are responded to / resolved quickly
I don't have to repeat my situation again and again
I had my issue resolved immediately
[Company] always do what they say they will
If [Company] commit to a timeframe, they will deliver to it
Were you kept up to date throughout this process?
CRM case resolution times
I was extremely clear on the required outcome of the situation
I receive a consistent customer experience, no matter who I speak to
Call Centre QA measures & Service Levels
[Company] is proactive in identifying opportunities / providing solutions
I feel like I can always come to [company] for answers
[Company] know what they are talking about
I'm confident I will get the answers I need when speaking to [company]
By collecting data on the 4 trust levers mentioned above, your organisation will be able to better understand what elements of the trust you're good at and where there are opportunities to improve.
You should then subsequently be able to aggregate your 4 levers of trust into a Customer Trust Score;
We won't go into the details behind this calculation in this article (as the methodology would ultimately change depending on the data you use and associated business decisions) however our strong recommendation is that this measure sits alongside other customer headline measures - CSAT, NPS etc.
There's a high chance that this trust measure will sit well below your NPS score, or CSAT result but that is expected. As we mentioned at the top of this blog, establishing trust can take a long amount of time and is more complex than just making a customer happy.
If you continue to focus on measuring and improving the 4 trust levers we have highlighted above, we're extremely confident that your organisation will be successful for a long, long time.
To finish off, we wanted to reiterate that it's highly likely your organisation already collects trust information via questions in customer surveys, or operational data that you collect on your customers. The effort should therefore be focused on how you can aggregate this data to generate a meaningful score and extremely valuable insights which will ensure longevity and loyalty from your customers.
Gone are the days where Customer Satisfaction or Customer Advocacy will single-handedly drive higher customer revenue and retention. Get on the front foot today and start to measure trust in your organisation!
Ben the Bearded Man