Building brand trust is of the utmost importance for businesses. It fosters loyalty with existing customers and is integral to helping win over new ones. According to Ad Age, consumers ranked brand trust as, "one of the top factors they consider when making a purchase, with 81% of survey respondents saying that they 'must be able to trust the brand to do what is right.'"
But as consumer expectations for brands rise, their faith in those companies appears to falter. That same Ad Age study found that just 34% of consumers trust the brands they buy and use.
So how can your business fix this disconnect and leverage the concept of customer trust — and subsequent loyalty — in your favor, where so many brands fail? Here are three key moments that can make or break your customers' trust:
1. When your customer has a bad experience
Your brand likely dedicates significant resources to delivering a great customer experience. In a perfect world, you'd also be able to ensure that no one ever has a negative experience with your brand. And while we're all for doing everything possible to mitigate the occurrence of bad moments for your customers, we're also all about being realistic and making a plan for when things don't go the way we want.
And the thing is, your customers don't expect you to nevermess up or inconvenience them. Their realfeelings about you will be established by how you handle things when they are less than perfect. The most important thing you can do is to nail the critical moment following a negative brand experience. It lets your customer know they can place confidence in you, even when things go wrong.
If you're not already, your brand should be in the regular habit of monitoring, evaluating, and responding to negative reviews. Once a customer expresses that they've had a negative experience, respond right away. What makes for a good review response? Make sure your response communicates the following three things:
You're listening to them, and it matters to you that they feel heard and that you understand them fully
You know there is an opportunity to do better
You're actively doing everything you can to address the problem
When customers feel listened to, and see that their concerns are being addressed, they feel respected and valued in a tangible way — and thus are more likely to trust you. A bonus for you? Businesses that respond to 60% of reviews see an average .28 increase* in their star rating.
2. When your customer has an urgent need
If a customer needs something in real time and turns to your brand for help, that's a pivotal moment. It could be something as simple as asking if your store is still open for a late-night grocery run, or it could be as dire as a parent who needs to find out if one of your physicians can see their sick child right away.
With people now making an average of at least 3–4 online searches per day, what do they do when they need something immediately? They search. They may turn to Google to find your business location, or they might type "GP who can see patients on Saturdays" directly into the search bar on your website. Either way, they're looking for answers — and they'll trust a brand who can deliver them quickly, seamlessly, and accurately.
Immediacy often trumps pre-existing loyalty. According to Lisa Gevelber, Google's VP of Marketing, "When someone has a want or need, they turn to their smartphone for help. When a need arises, people turn to search and YouTube to look for answers, discover new things, and make decisions. We call these intent-filled moments, micro-moments. And they're the best opportunity marketers have to connect with people at the exact moment they are looking for something."
If you have an exceptional practice around managing your brand's search experience, both on your website and off, your brand will be ready to answer customer questions accurately and consistently, no matter where people are asking them. The more customers tell you what they need, the more you can pivot your offers — and even your product or service — to fit those needs. None of this can be achieved by cookie-ing someone. Create an intent marketing strategy so you can stop chasing your customers and start building trust by giving them what they need, when they need it.
3. When there's a crisis
Think about what we're currently witnessing in the midst of the global COVID-19 crisis. People have more questions than they typically do because so many aspects of how we live our lives have very suddenly and very radically shifted. Things we might never need to ask under usual circumstances — about our health, our safety, the essential services we need — are suddenly unclear and in need of immediate, accurate answers. At the same time, once-static (or at least mostly consistent) facts about many businesses are changing, and those changes need to be communicated everywhere people are searching for answers. Some businesses are facing rapid closures, for example, and changes to hours and offerings. Yext customers are seeing a massive volume of new questions being asked.
To build trust, brands need to inform people quickly and seamlessly in times of a crisis like this one. To do otherwise puts both companies and individuals at risk. Even more so than usual, the way you respond to customers in moments of fear and confusion will make or break their trust.
So this is a crucial moment for reflecting on how you're tackling this opportunity. How prepared is your brand to quickly update the information on your website? How capable are you of delivering answers with an instant reaction time? These questions are mission critical all the time, pandemic or not. The current crisis is merely shining a light on just how vital the issue of search is to your overall customer experience — and more broadly, to your brand perception.
It's not as overwhelming an issue to get a firm grasp on as it might seem, though. The answer starts with your knowledge graph. Businesses need to have a knowledge graph that feeds into a system that delivers on-site answers, bringing everything a customer might want to know to the surface. Today, that's likely to be questions about a business' preparation and processes related to the coronavirus, or guidance on what health actions customers should take to stay safe. In the future, it will surely be something else. But in either case, failure to surface these answers breaks trust and could too easily result in lost business.
The fact is, on any given day — but even more acutely on a stressful day, which we are currently experiencing a long string of — consumers will lean in the direction of whatever brand they feel is doing the most to inform and support them with the least friction. Now is the moment to make sure you're that brand.
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*Yext proprietary study, 2018