Trust is built, not by any grand gesture, but by a series of seemingly insignificant moments.
While it's a pretty simple concept, I had this lightbulb moment while listening to Dr. Brené Brown talk about trust.
Saving a seat for your friend at lunch, calling a colleague when they’ve been off sick to ask if they’re ok, or attending a funeral just to support a friend—all of these gestures are the hallmarks of someone who is thoughtful and empathetic, someone you can trust.
In the same way that trust is built, a friend can break down trust in the moments where they miss these opportunities to be thoughtful or empathetic.
Trust is built and lost in the same way between brands and their customers. It’s the little, thoughtful things that count—such as calling your customers by name, making them feel valued, asking them for their opinions, giving away valuable information for free or making every interaction with your brand easy and intuitive.
Similarly, every experience that doesn’t feel empathetic or thoughtful breaks down this trust. Think about the negative brand experiences that you might have had—’the sales assistant never asked if I needed help’, ‘they didn’t seem to care about my problem’, ‘their advertising was deceptive’, ‘their website is broken so I couldn’t get what I needed’ or ‘they bombarded me with spammy sales emails’. These seemingly small or insignificant moments are the ones that break down trust over time.
Whether you're B2B or B2C, selling products or selling services, we're all serving people. People buy from brands they like and trust, and that's why a lack of trust can impact your bottom line. Your brand experience is made up of moments, with each being an opportunity to anticipate your customer's needs and build trust by designing thoughtful and remarkable experiences.
So how can we find opportunities to build trust? Here are my tips:
1. Know your customer
And not just their age and income. These are real people, not just a number. Get to know their preferences, likes, dislikes, biggest fears and challenges. What do they need, how do they view the world? What keeps them up at night? What do they want to know? How can you deliver value to them?
2. Seek opportunities for feedback
Build in a customer feedback loop. This could be as simple as asking your customers for feedback directly or by building a quick survey, just make sure it's not overly time consuming. Either way, ensure that you are offering your customers the opportunity to offer suggestions for improvement.
Some customers don't like confrontation, so they won't tell you directly if they are unhappy with something, they simply won't buy from you again. Or perhaps you'll even hear about the negative experience in an online review.
A guarantee can help to identify problems as soon as they arise, so you can attempt to fix it immediately, before it escalates. Guarantees come in a few different flavours but are usually related to meeting a certain standard. They can include offering a customer's money back or asking for the opportunity to resolve the issue at no extra charge.
With a guarantee, buying from your business becomes a lot less risky, and you have a better chance of hearing about the problem and areas of your business that need improvement. You'll also gain another opportunity to impress, retain and build trust with your customers.
3. Consider every touchpoint
Every interaction matters. From their first scroll through your instagram feed, to reading a blog on your website, email correspondence to processes and everything inbetween, if people can engage with it, experience it and associate it with your brand, it needs to be considered. Your whole brand journey should be designed with your customer's needs, emotional state, and your brand purpose in mind. Think about the touchpoints before, during and after they consume or experience your offering and how you can make each interaction exceptional.
4. Set expectations
Often negative brand experiences can boil down to miscommunication. If your process, inclusions, delivery and timelines are not clearly outlined, it's easy for your customers to make assumptions and create their own expectations, only to be disappointed when it's not as they imagined. If you set expectations from the get-go, your customers will know what they can expect from you and when. If while setting expectations, you can make promises that are easily achievable, then you can exceed these to deliver exceptional service. For example, you might say you will deliver something on Wednesday, but you actually deliver it on Monday. Or you throw in something additional for free. These small gestures make for happy customers. Always under-promise and over deliver.
5. Be consistent
Going to build an unforgettable brand? Your experience not only needs to be remarkable, it also needs to be consistent— across every touchpoint and between each customer. The visuals, language, and experience must all be singing the same tune, just as each customer should ideally have an equally great experience, whether that’s in person or online. The best way to build consistency into your brand experiences is to create rules and processes for engagement— including workflows, policies, visual identity guidelines, voice and tone guides and messaging guides.
6. Start small and build
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by this task of creating your brand experience. Remember, it’s the small gestures that matter most in building trust. You don’t need to buy people fancy gifts or spend boatloads of money to create an exceptional customer experience. You might start out just by ensuring that every interaction is not breaking trust, that it is positive, thoughtful and consistent. Then you can go back and build in remarkability, one touchpoint at a time.
Chances are, you're not going to nail your brand experience in one fell swoop. It's going to be a work in progress, not something you set and forget. There are always going to be new ways to make your brand experience remarkable. It should be an ongoing goal to keep evaluating your customer interactions and creating opportunities to 'wow' your customers.
What are you doing to build trust with your customers? How can you improve your brand experience to make it unforgettable? I would love to hear about it in the comments!