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Over the past decade, there has been a radical shift in the way that businesses connect to their customers. The vast amount of consumer information stored in customer insight data is key to creating a personalized customer experience. Marketers are scrambling to keep pace with data privacy regulations and industry best practices while creating a positive customer experience. There is still an overwhelming sense of consumer distrust when it comes to how data is not only protected, but how it is being collected, used, and shared.  

As discussed in a recent Forrester report, The Mechanics of Trust, in today’s heightened environment of consumer mistrust, marketers must authentically build trust with their customers. The only effective way to do so is through a positive engagement cycle. In this cycle marketers solicit consumer advice, listen, and understand the feedback provided, and then create action with that feedback. They need to move towards a transparent "give to get" strategy while recognizing the attitude shifts in the increasingly educated consumer base predicated on a customer journey that balances personalization and privacy. This type of honest and mutually beneficial engagement strategy propels companies beyond being just industry leaders to becoming competitive disruptors.  

How Customers Perceive Trust

Trust affects every relationship we have. When we trust who we are interacting with, we are more willing to expose ourselves, including our personal information, because we trust the outcome will be positive. According to Forrester, despite best efforts to be customer centric, consumers still don’t trust modern advertising, nor do they believe businesses have their best interests in mind. 

Consider how my very own recent customer journey left me feeling distrustful that a brand that I love was listening to me. As a loyal fan of a clothing brand, I was willing to pay a premium in exchange for a perfect fit, prints I loved, and fabric that fit my lifestyle. I began to notice that prices at my local boutique significantly dropped on an inconsistent basis (and often right after I paid the full retail price). After discussing this with the manager, I was not provided a satisfactory answer as to why. Eventually, I realized that not only was there no transparency in their business and pricing practices, I wasn't able to trust that I was getting the best value. Eventually, I was able to find a better experience for the same brand elsewhere. After years of being a loyal shopper, no one ever reached out to find out why I was no longer frequenting the store.

The retailer lost a vital opportunity to learn how they could have earned back my trust. Whether it’s a brick and mortar or online portal, trust must be established and fostered through an ongoing, transparent exchange of information in which the customer is repeatedly and consistently engaged.

The Three-Pronged Approach to Trust Building

Forrester suggests that to be successful, marketers must take a three-pronged approach to build trust with consumers. Firstly, integrity, competence, and transparency must drive trust. In data collection, for example, businesses must thoughtfully communicate as to how customer data will be collected, used, and protected. When this process is initiated, and consent is earned through ongoing engagement, consumers trust that the company is not only competent but also integral in its business practices. To further strengthen the relationship, businesses must iteratively ask for and earn consent to use the data.

Secondly, trust building efforts must be cohesively aligned with brand values. Industries like financial institutions may view trust differently than a clothing retailer might. Businesses can dig deeper to understand how and why trust matters to ensure they act in alignment with their mission through ongoing engagement. And iterative consent model allows businesses to offer a highly personalized experience based on these insights.

The final prong in the three-pronged approach is instilling trust as a core competency. Trust must be established at every touchpoint, and everyone in the company must be empowered and supported to build trust. From the boardroom to executives, and across all channels, the trust messaging must be cohesive.

Be Disruptive in Your Transparency

Trustworthiness is becoming a highly regarded metric in the performance and measurement of marketing and customer experience. Executives, boards, and investors now see trust as a new analytic. A tenet of the Mechanics of Trust is that strategies for customer engagement and retainment are based primarily on trust. As such, CEOs will become the spokespeople for companies, authentically representing the business and its people. Competitive disruptors will lead the pack in their respective industries, committing to transparency in their current practices and systematically evolving their methods. The constant leveling up forces competitors to rise to meet their standards. This competitive disruption is a win for consumers as they are the direct beneficiary as businesses clamor to earn and keep their trust. 

How Trustworthy Is Your Business?

Are you doing the "bare minimum", or are you considered a competitive disruptor in your industry? Click one of the social icons to share this article and your thoughts on the mechanics of trust.

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