How to close the trust gap and increase lifetime value
Last updated: August 18, 2023
As demonstrated by recent meltdowns at FTX, Coinbase and Southwest Airlines, trust is the lifeblood of business. Once customers doubt your ability to follow through on your promises, they’re gone.
Unfortunately, there’s a huge trust gap between businesses and their customers. 87 percent of executives believe consumers have trust in their business, but only 30 percent of consumers agree, according to PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series on Trust.
That’s partially driven by a disconnect between what business leaders think drives trust and what consumers use to drive their day-to-day buying decisions.
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According to the same study, 45% of business leaders had implemented transparent ESG reporting — but only 19% of consumers listed it among the top five drivers of trust. So while many customers will appreciate the passing of sustainability initiatives, that alone won’t restore consumer trust in their organization.
We’re going to offer a lot of different tactics for building trust, but they all ladder up to three core traits: empathy, accountability and transparency. Cultivate those values in every facet of your organization and it’ll pay off in the form of increased customer trust, retention and eventually brand loyalty.
Below, we’ll give you some tangible ways to close the customer trust gap and turn your users into lifelong brand loyalists.
How to close the trust gap and increase customer lifetime value
1. Provide exemplary customer service
For many customers, trust boils down to one question: If something goes wrong, can the company fix it?
Customer service is one of the most important ways to establish your legitimacy and, in turn, trust with customers. This is the one of the only times that the customer reaches out to the company for help on a specific issue, and interacts with them in real time. So if you can help customers resolve their issues in real time, and do it gracefully, you’re demonstrating compassion at a time they need it most — and laying the groundwork of a good relationship.
Looking to level up your customer service? Here’s where to begin:
- Empower customers with self-service resources: Consult your support and account managers to identify the most common obstacles your customers face when using your product, then create self-service resources on those topics. Periodically use your CDP or a web tracking tool to see how much traffic these pages get and change course accordingly.
- Store customer information in one place: One of the biggest barriers to seamless service experiences is a lack of unified information. Customer service reps need time to access the customer’s information, which is usually spread across multiple software, while customers wait… and wait and wait. If you use a CDP, your support team can query each customer’s full profile, encompassing every interaction they’ve had with your company, and use that to provide more specific guidance to each person.
- Take ownership of mistakes: Adversity reveals a company’s values. The average person doesn’t really evaluate how well a vendor is working for them until they fall short. And many leave after one bad experience: In the U.S., even when people love a company or product, 59% will walk away after several bad experiences and 17% will leave after just one, according to research from PwC. So when you inevitably make a mistake? You need to respond with accountability, transparency and concrete resolutions in order to win your customers back.
2. Tell your story
It’s easier for people to put faith in other people than in faceless brands. When we hear someone’s story — what inspired them to start their business, what experiences have prepared them to lead their business, etc. — we can connect with them, empathize with them and ultimately, entrust them with our business.
So brand-building isn’t just a nebulous marketing ploy. It’s a concrete way to connect with your audience and win their loyalty.
But not every company has a splashy mission statement or a charismatic CEO. That can keep lesser-known companies from trying to build their brands when, in all likelihood, they need brand loyalty even more than their more established counterparts.
Worried that your brand’s story isn’t interesting enough? Likely, a perspective shift is enough to breathe life into your brand story. Here’s where to start:
- Use common narrative techniques: The best books and movies follow a similar structure. The protagonist encounters a problem forcing them to take a certain action, which kickstarts the plot, and ultimately they come upon a resolution. You may not be selling an Oscar script, but you are selling your company’s ability to solve a problem. So ground your brand story in these storytelling techniques. Identify the problem you aim to solve, the steps your company takes to resolve those issues, and the solution you hope to provide your customers. This will help you go beyond the buzzwords to tell a story customers can actually connect to.
- Focus on the people behind your product: There’s no better way to humanize your brand than by spotlighting the actual people working with your customers every day. Look to showcase your team members — especially customer-facing ones — on social media, as well as your broader marketing initiatives.
3. Review your data management policies
Customers have become more and more selective about where they disclose their personal information — and how it’s being used. Simply put, you can’t gain your customer’s trust if you’re not using their information in a transparent, ethical way that enhances the user experience.
Review your data management policies regularly to ensure that you’re meeting — and exceeding — data privacy standards in the areas you operate. Regularly take stock of where you’re taking in customer data, as well as the disclosures you make to customers on your forms.
We also recommend storing your customer data in one place, like a CDP, so you can collect and activate this data, and manage consent more easily. This also makes it easier to pull a customer’s complete data record if requested (as required by the GDPR).
4. Maintain regular and predictable communications
Keeping your customers updated on your work reassures them that you’re continuing to serve their best interests. Don’t spam your audience with daily promotional emails, but sending a monthly email of product updates, marketing content or even a message from the CEO tells your customers that you’re invested in their success.
A caveat, though: If customers give you their email address and receive more emails than they expected, this strategy will backfire. So allow people to opt in and opt out of specific kinds of communications via preference pages. On those pages, spell out exactly what kind of content you plan to send them, and how frequently it’ll be sent, so that customers can clearly decide whether or not to opt in.
5. Share reviews to establish social proof
When was the last time you asked a company to tell you what dentist to go to?
Customers trust their friends, colleagues and even anonymous reviewers more than the businesses they’re buying from: According to research from Wyzowl, 9 out of 10 people say they trust what a customer says about a business more than what that business says about itself and 95% of people say that reviews – whether positive, or negative – influence their purchasing decisions. And on average, a customer needs to read 10 reviews before they trust a company.
Use reviews to show that people have had positive, impactful experiences with your company — this alone can reassure customers that they’re making the right choice by signing with you.
6. Meet individual needs by providing personalized offers
One of the building blocks of trust is empathy. Customers will only trust you with their time and business if you show that you can help them solve their problems. And you can’t help them solve their problems if you don’t know what they are.
Show your customers that you understand what’s most important to them by personalizing your offers, communications and products for their needs.
There are many different ways to do this, including:
- Personalized pop-ups
- Personalized on-site content recommendations based on past eBook/content downloads
- Personalized event invitations and emails based on past content downloads and event attendance
- Personalized offers and discounts based on past purchase history
- Personalized subscription bundles based on past purchase history
- Access to loyalty programs based on order volume or amount of time as a customer
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