Do Your Customers Trust You?

“Do you trust us?” It is a question that you would rarely ask of customers. You may even assume that you know their response. “Sure I do.”  Why else would they do business with you?

How can you uncover this information? After all, it is important. This level of customer trust can make a difference to your bottom line.

There is a connection between trust and loyalty. You know that it is better to have customers that trust you. But how do you find out what areas of your business are critical to enhancing the level of a customer’s trust in your business?

The connection between trust and loyalty is often debated by marketing professionals and business consultants. There are several noteworthy articles that shed light on this question.

Research published in the Harvard Business Review (from work done by Frederick Reichheld and Earl Sasser) shows the connection between these two factors. It also clearly illustrated that just having customers who are “satisfied” is not good enough. Customers must rate their satisfaction very high to come back and be repeat customers.

Other research from “Customer Satisfaction, Customer Retention,” by Chatura Ranaweera and Jaideep Prabhu shows that satisfaction and trust have strong positive associations with both customer loyalty and word-of-mouth. It also shows that trust was only slightly less important than satisfaction when it came to providing a recommendation. And we all know how important recommendations (or word-of-mouth) are to marketing and growth.

Satisfaction and customer loyalty are so important that an entire system of rating customer satisfaction according to something called a Net Promoter Score was developed around Reichheld’s concepts. This system is based on the correlation between satisfaction and how likely your customer is to recommend your organization to others.

Jackrabbit believes customer trust is so critical that we’ve put several processes in place to monitor and measure our success at keeping our customers satisfied. Using the Net Promoter Score system is one of them.

Why has this system come about? It’s actually pretty difficult to learn genuine satisfaction levels across all of your customers. Research showed Reichheld that simply asking customers “How loyal are you to our company?” or “What is your level of satisfaction with our company?” didn’t provide an accurate read on this. From the research noted above, Reichheld saw that asking a couple of simple questions about whether a customer would recommend your company to others is a very accurate barometer.

What’s important is that this system also gives you critical information about those who are not satisfied with your business.  Sometimes you learn enough that you can improve relationships before they end or learn how to prevent others from taking similar paths.

There are three factors that can help to ensure that you’re building and sustaining your customers’ trust.

Understand your customer expectations. Think about it. When you pay for almost anything, you have a set of expectations. Those expectations are formed from advertising, past experience, word-of-mouth, and several other components of that contribute to the customer experience. Customers compare their actual experience with their expectations of the experience. So when there are disconnects between the two, there is an impact on satisfaction and trust.

Ask your customers what they expect. Make sure you understand what your customers really want from you. This may surprise you. They may not expect you to build a new facility but do to receive a bill that is accurate and understandable.

Understand the customers’ experiences. While a customer is buying services from you, they are also experiencing a process when they do business with you. Understand what that process looks like from their perspective.

To do this, ask yourself:

How easy is it for customers to do business with me? Pretend you’re a parent. You might be surprised at what you find out.

What parts of that process have the biggest impact on customer expectations? You can call these your critical “trust” points. Even if these points seem small and inconsequential, pay close attention to them. For example, first contact matters, so what kind of experience do customers have when they call your office or visit your website?

Do you have a way to tell when you’re meeting expectations and to what degree you’re doing so? Customer satisfaction surveys (noted above) can be helpful.

Is your company’s value proposition clear and can employees explain it to customers? A clear value proposition answers the question as to “why” the customer should do business with your company.

How do you handle customer problems?  The way you resolve issues gives you the opportunity to improve that relationship and that is the way everyone on your staff should approach resolving problems.

Customer trust is critical to your business, but knowledge of the levels of satisfaction and trust your customers are experiencing is perhaps the most critical piece of information that you can possess. Without this information, you don’t know if you’re making good decisions and guiding your business in the best direction.

Two great reads related to this are Frederick Reichhold’s The Loyalty Effect and Matthew Dixon’s The Effortless Experience both available on Amazon.com.

If you’re not using this valuable business data, it’s worth considering the best way that you can capture it and use it. Ask your peers and partners. They’ll most likely be happy to help you.

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