Why customer trust is more vital to brand survival than it's ever been

Authenticity is key to trust, so how do brands build this in a world of digital and social upheaval?

Future trends

As we move into an ever-changing marketing landscape, care is going to be the metric people use moving forward, Katsabaris says.

“Trust feels rational and it feels like it’s at a distance, but care feels much more emotional, you are much more invested if you aim to care about somebody. If a brand cares about its customers, then you’ve got a vastly different conversation going on in these head offices, because there’s empathy,” she says. “And if you’re empathetic, you do want to help them.

“I love the Nordstrom philosophy: Employees have to get permission when they're going to say no to a customer. The presumption is they're going to say yes.”

Stocks expects to see more customer experience professionals in the future tasked with tackling trust.

“CX is not just owning employees, brands, products and customer experience, it’s now connecting the key stakeholders and their needs,” she comments. “Very few organisations are thinking about this now - linking brand awareness to CX performance, to employee experience performance. Those brands connecting that data and looking at it together will get smarter about what levers to pull and manage a complete experience strategy, versus in silos.”

Ratner worries for the CMO role of the future, and how they can carry out their core function of building a brand amid a growing business remit.

“I worry about the over-complication of CX and journey mapping, because people are people at the end of the day. We’re trying to predict how are and how they behave and we’ve got AI being developed for this, but at the end of the day it’s just people talking to people,” he says.  

“Plus, a lack of authenticity is built into the current CMO role; we now carry the responsibility to deliver an ROI, which is generally measured in sales or conversions. If we’re obsessing about our conversions, how can we possibly maintain authenticity? We’re short-term.

“The challenge for brands in this environment is how to deliver conversions but do so in a way that builds the brand and something meaningful. This will only become more important.

“The more we move to automation of sales, the more the role of the CMO will be to get sales. So how do you build trust in that environment? You must ask: Who you are, why do you do what you do, and ensure every interaction is on brand. We can’t throw traditional marketing out the window, the principles still apply, it’s just the channels are different and our responsibilities are broader.”

Common mistakes

So what are the common mistake being made that impact the ability to build brand trust? Ratner says playing up purpose too much can land brands in an inauthentic position.

“Lot of organisations are moving away from their core, they’re getting a bit carried away,” he claims. “This whole content marketing push is driving brands to start having conversations with customers that may not be that relevant to them. There’s a sea of content, and much of it is irrelevant.

“If you’re moving away from what your core business is about, and you’re not sticking to your knitting, it’s inauthentic. Brands need to stay true to who and what they are.”

McCrindle says size and scale can work against brands, as Australian banks have found, while a long history can lead to arrogance and not putting the customer first. Trust can also get stale and end up working against brands. Trust is not endowed forever; we’re only trusted while we’re trusted.

Stocks recommends brands measure those customer moments that matter and importantly, listen to customers in those moments.

“If you map a customer journey and their needs, how are you delivering on that? Install listening posts so your team can learn and improve. Map the moments that matter, particularly those moments which can be emotionally charged, such as first impressions,” she says.

“There’s a trade-off - if you carefully weigh up the trade-off between financial return and customer impact, then you make the right decision in the first place. Ultimately, if you deliver value to customers, the financial returns will come.”

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