Our society is coping with unprecedented challenges. Both customers and employees are facing growing uncertainties and concerns. For many, these may include income inequality and job insecurity, or social unrest. Meanwhile, systemic risks like climate change, pandemics, and global recessions have wrought widespread health, safety, and financial impacts.
There are numerous examples around the world of governments failing to unify and guide their communities through these challenges. Furthermore, the integrity of societal institutions has been lost by ‘fake news‘ and a series of corporate and governmental scandals. In this article, we will explain Forrester’s findings on the importance of building a strong and trusting customer relationship.
The absence of trust
In the UK, consumers are willing to trust more businesses than the government or media. They are also giving brands permission to play a bigger part in their lifestyles and well-being. Moreover, almost half of the UK consumers are turning to brands for advice on health and safety. Traditional sources are being ousted by brands people believe in and identify with.
Greek philosopher Aristotle said that people are “social animals,” who habitually build relationships to live life. Therefore, society isn’t suffering from a lack of trust; rather, individuals are constantly adjusting to new circumstances.
Forrester’s latest research, “The Trust Imperative” explores and defines the concept of customer trust. It reveals how firms can increase (or diminish) reliance and recommends ways to build positive associations across key stakeholder groups.
Relationship building is the critical ingredient for growth
Highly trusted firms have greater growth potential as they build enduring bonds with customers. This gives them the confidence to innovate and offer new experiences. It also allows them to attract the most dedicated talents and select the right partners to support their growth.
However, the trust transformation is occurring in the blind spots of the C-suite. To understand this new concept, business leaders need to know that:
- People are wired to trust. When we, as users, feel betrayed by a brand, we redirect our trust elsewhere. Value-based start-ups are beginning to appeal more and more to customers who look for authenticity, empathy, and purpose. In fact, 1 in 5 UK customers will leave a brand if it is not aligned with their personal values.
- The two sides of technology. In many ways, technology has been the catalyst for the trust transformation. Social sharing gives people deeper connections to companies, while digital platforms empower consumers to connect directly with peers, seek recommendations, and offer reviews. All of this helps users feel aligned with the brand. On the other hand, the same technologies spread misinformation and perpetuate fears that can destroy confidence.
- Building ethical brands. Our research shows that brand reliance is highly impactful. When a customer trusts a brand, there are 72% chances that that person will put belief in their affiliate as well. However, this also carries risk. Any company can quickly fall out of favour because of privacy abuses or ethical failures. Altogether, it means organisations must be carefully selective in their third-party relationships.
Diverse ways to nurturing trust
Consumers, employees, and partners are desperate for businesses to create safe and secure relationships. Each organization has to take its own actions and accomplish this goal. Forrester’s research defines a set of seven levers that influence people’s trust. Leaders need to encourage accountability, competence, consistency, dependability, empathy, integrity, and transparency.
However, not every company needs the same amount of trust. Some of them might find that transparency and accountability are key to healthy growth, while others might focus on empathy and competence. An honest and detailed assessment should be the starting point for every organisation that wants to shape a trusting customer relationship.
This article was co-authored by Forrester’s analysts, Enza Iannopollo and Anjali Lai.