Doing Right by the Customer: Build Trust to Deliver Unparalleled Experiences
Consumer trust in brands has continued to decline in recent years, and much of that can be linked to the seemingly endless examples of companies mishandling personal data. No organization has been immune: financial institutions, social media networks, and technology giants have all experienced the fallout associated with improperly or unsuccessfully protecting their customers’ personal information. While it’s not always the fault of the organization — hackers are still hard at work — the fact remains: overall consumer trust has waned over the years, and it doesn’t look to be recovering any time soon. People are thinking twice about what they share and are pulling back from online activity. This was uncovered in a recent global consumer survey by Selligent Marketing Cloud, which found that 41 percent of those polled have reduced their use of social media due to privacy concerns. This consumer hesitation and behavioral change presents challenges for brands that want to learn more about their target audience in order to deliver the highly personalized experiences consumers have come to expect.
What’s a retailer to do? Here are three tips to build trust in the era of data-aware consumerism:
1. Privacy Isn’t About Opting Out
Far too many brands rely on the opt-out feature to define parameters of what customers are comfortable with from a data-sharing perspective, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has taught us anything, it’s that privacy protection is something to be addressed proactively, not in a reactive manner. Smart brands cannot assume consumers generally agree with sharing data, and that only those that opt out don't agree. There’s a large portion of the consumer population that knows data gathering is a necessary part of tailoring customer experiences (CX). Sixty-four percent are aware they're being tracked and welcome recommendations based on previous purchases, and 51 percent are willing to share personal data for personalized CX. This in itself is an opportunity, but only when a brand also proactively incorporates data permissioning as part of the customer experience. This collaborative approach to figuring out individual boundaries is a huge step in helping establish trust between a brand and its customer. It proves that brands care, are listening and are ready to put customer preference into action.
2. Make Customers Feel in Control of Their Experience
Speaking of GDPR, the U.S.’s first-ever data privacy regulation, California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is here. Brands that have had a taste of GDPR in Europe are now working towards adhering to a new and different set of rules for their California customers, and navigating this area won't come without its challenges. However, brands are realizing that the more they put their customers in control, the better the outcome across various areas, including product and service feedback, effective customer service, and improving end-to-end CX.
For example, research data shows social media influencers are still a hard sell for 77 percent of the population. Similarly, the large majority of people don’t go to customer service to complain, they go to ask questions. Forty percent say they contact customer service to ask a question about a service or product, and only 26 percent to complain, with another 21 percent reaching out for returns.
Why is this important? Leaning on your customers to help you make your product or service and brand better is a huge opportunity for brands. They're a source to better understand what’s working and what’s not.
Often, we’ll see brands set out with a vision and work hard to bring that vision to life. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but sometimes brands stop listening to their customers somewhere along the way. They create and deliver in a vacuum, and almost always the brand suffers because of it. Remember that your customer base can almost be treated as a large focus group: if you listen, you will learn. You will get better. Your customers will respond to that and loyalty will be well within reach.
3. Sometimes, You Won’t Get it Right
Like people, no brand is perfect. Mistakes will be made and hard lessons learned. But like the old adage says, “it’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get up.” Except that for consumers, what does matter is how you recover from a misstep.
Survey data shows that consumers are generally understanding, but they also won’t tolerate numerous mistakes that affect them. Fifty-four percent of people will give brands two to three negative experiences before they abandon the brand altogether. This is proof that knowing how to right a wrong is an important part of a good business strategy.
Making it right is sometimes easier said than done. In some instances, it means making a sincere apology, while in others it’s rethinking your entire business model. Whatever the wrong is, figuring out corrective actions and doing them quickly is an important part of rebuilding consumer trust.
Ninety-six percent of people expect an almost instantaneous response from flagged brand issues, and 90 percent expect that resolution to come within a 24-hour timeframe. Chances are, if you do it well, consumers will actually come to love you more. As brands strategize, it’s important to prepare for bad scenarios and formulate ideas for response and resolution. Preparation is everything. Hopefully you’ll never have to look at that page in the playbook, but there’s comfort in knowing it’s there if you need it. Your customers will thank you for it.
The next era of marketing will be held up by trust in a big way, and brands that can implement trust building into their strategies will fare better than those that don’t equally prioritize product and customer experience and relationships. It’s a big undertaking to rethink an entire brand strategy with a heavy trust component, but it’s an exercise that’s well worth the time. Customers will notice and reward brands for it with both a willingness to get to know them on a more intimate level and with long-term loyalty.
Niki Hall is CMO of Selligent Marketing Cloud, overseeing its global go-to-market strategy. Over the course of her 20+ year marketing career, Hall has specialized in global growth and operational efficiencies for some of tech’s largest companies, including Cisco Systems, Polycom, and Five9, where as the VP of Marketing she successfully positioned the company as a digital enterprise cloud leader. Her primary focus currently is driving demand generation; managing product, client, partner and field marketing and communications; and spearheading Selligent’s global brand initiatives. When she is not working, Hall can be found at SoulCycle or spending time with her family, mostly at soccer games, baseball games or dance conventions.