According to Edelman research on brand trust, more than half of global respondents say they are happy to pay more for a trusted brand’s products and services (59% globally, 63% US) and that they will continue to buy a product from a trusted brand even if a competitor is getting better reviews (69% globally, 75% US).
But how do you build that trust?
Laserfiche founder Nien-Ling Wacker used to say that when you make decisions with money in mind, that’s a surefire way to fail. Instead, make decisions with customers in mind — even if it will result in less money at first — because the money will surely follow. Customers know when you value them as important parts of your community, not just as additions to the bottom line.
In the end, customers want to buy from companies — and people — they like. Customers don’t fall in love with your brand by being pushed into a sales relationship; they fall in love with a consistently enjoyable experience, which is the natural byproduct of a strong relationship. Companies that deliver those experiences understand the impact they make on their customers’ lives, and they make sure their employees do, too. And, even more important, they don’t underestimate the power of give when other vendors do nothing but take.
Three ways to show how you value your customers are remaining true to your mission; valuing your employees just as much as you do your customers; and treating customers like humans. Let’s take a look at the importance of each.
In the 1994 movie “The Lion King,” Rafiki entreats Simba to “remember who you are,” to remain true to his legacy. Now, you may think that a Disney cartoon has little to do with your customer engagement strategy — and you’d be wrong! It’s easy for us to get distracted by what everyone else is doing, what’s hot in the industry, and what’s winning awards, and forget why our customers chose us in the first place.
Brand authenticity is important to customers, especially millennials. That’s not to say you can’t evolve or grow, but it does mean you must do so intentionally, and without forgetting your mission — or your customers.
Eighty-seven percent of customers’ affinity toward Starbucks is driven by how the company treats its employees. There’s an undeniable link between customer experience and employee experience — so if you want to improve one, you need to pay attention to the other.
Companies that do a good job engaging their workforce make every employee, regardless of their role in the company, feel valued, trusted and respected — not just for what they do, but for who they are. While we may associate this with free lunch and other perks, it’s more than that. On a corporate level, this may mean investing in management training, employee development, and diversity, equity and inclusion along with corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Engaging isn’t just about what and how much you give your employees, but how they feel. Do they feel like they have the power to make the best decisions for your customers? Your employees are the face of your brand, so you need to ensure that they understand the “why” of your organization — and that they’re empowered to live those values in interactions with customers. When you trust your team to promote your values when they’re speaking to customers or making decisions, that will create authenticity, ensure your values aren’t diluted as you grow and, as a benefit, keep employees engaged.
Especially if you support enterprise customers, it can be easy to focus on “the enterprise” and forget that those customers are individuals with hobbies, families and, most importantly, a sense of humor. Whether they work for a multinational organization with 50,000 employees or a local company with 50, customers are people first — and they want to be treated like it.
But sometimes it’s easier said than done. So, how can you treat your customers like humans first and customers second?
Any successful long-term relationship comes down to showing how much you value and appreciate the other person, in ways big and small. You can’t take the other person for granted. It’s like Nien-Ling used to say: customers know when you’re making decisions with them in mind. Stop thinking about what you can get from your customers, and start asking yourself what you can do to thank them for their ongoing relationship with you. That’s the key to building trust — and the key to transforming customers into advocates.