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3 Ways to Build Trust With a Customer Communications Management Strategy


By James Brown, CEO of Smart Communications

Did you see the following quote in my recent blog, How GDPR Affects the Customer Communications Experience?

“Fostering trust through pull tactics to facilitate opt-ins will prove to be the most effective tactic for scaling customer communications post-GDPR.”

A key phrase in this quote is “fostering trust.” Building trust among customers is a significant goal for companies today, and so is avoiding any factor that could erode it. Trust has always been an important driver of the relationship between a company and its key stakeholders: customers, employees, investors, business partners, and others. But, earning and preserving this trust has become a precarious effort.

What Affects Consumer Trust?

A myriad of events can undermine consumer trust in a company or brand, whether from outside threats like data breaches and hacking or by the company’s own actions. In the age of big data, consumers are even more on edge. Recent studies have shown how trust factors into the customer experience and drives decisions about whether to engage with a brand or pull back from it.

  • 88% of consumers agree the extent of their willingness to share personal information depends on how much they trust a given company. (PwC, 2017)
  • 87% of consumers will take their business elsewhere if they don’t trust how a company handles their data. (PwC)
  • 77% of consumers say company privacy policies are too difficult to understand. (PwC)
  • 78% of U.S. consumers are likely to share personal information when they retain control over how a brand communicates with them (Janrain, 2017)

Three Ways to Build Trust With CCM

“Any interaction is a chance to build trust, to sustain it, or dilute it.” — Tom Champion, Forrester senior analyst, on the podcast The Decline Of Consumer Trust And What To Do About It.

Your company’s customer communications strategy can play a significant role in that effort. Is it doing everything possible to build and enhance trust in your brand and the people behind it? The trust-building process goes hand in hand with both customer acquisition and retention. The digital agency Wunderman calls this “Wantedness,” or “the degree to which a brand proves their commitment to earning a customer’s business across every touchpoint and throughout the entire path to purchase.”

Marketing, advertising and PR have traditionally been tasked with trust-building and improving the customer experience. However, today’s customers no longer solely depend on those mass-communications to get information and form opinions about a brand.

As Forrester’s CMO Victor Milligan says in the podcast, “Trust really is an operational competency. It’s not a brand message.”

Today, companies must dig deeper and examine every interaction, including those from departments not previously a part of the customer communications conversation. That’s why a CCM strategy centered on positive customer experiences through trust-building can strengthen both customer relationships and retention. These three CCM strategies will build trust and win over skeptical customers:

1. Let Customers Control Communications. 

Now that we are living in a multichannel digital age, companies are discovering that consumers are more in control of how they want to communicate with your brand.

Phone? Direct mail? Website? Email? Text? Chatbot? Or a combination? Letting customers match the channel to the need gives them the control they seek. It also increases your timeliness of message response, which is another trust factor.

2. Be Transparent.

“Trust” isn’t the only “T” word in the CCM lexicon. Transparency means that you are giving your customers as much information as you can, using a language they can understand, while complying with regulations and compliance issues.

If your brand represents transparency and authenticity but communicates in legalese and bureaucratic language, that disconnect can result in a big trust gap and damage the overall customer experience.

  • Transparency uses “plain language.” CIGNA created a downloadable guide explaining how and why the company simplified the language it uses to communicate with customers and employees about insurance coverage. It includes a “Words We Use” list that replaces common industry terms, like “formulary” and “network savings,” with their plain-language equivalents.
  • Supply-chain transparency is becoming a common trust-building method for companies that import materials or finished products. For example, Whole Foods uses a verification system to assure customers that products labeled as non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) are labeled correctly. Delivering more transparent communications gives your customers more reasons to trust you and might send fewer customers to your call centers seeking more information.

3. Be Consistent Across all Customer Communication Channels.

This one might be the hardest to achieve if you rely on a legacy, CCM platform, especially an on-premises system that can’t be updated from a central operator.

The look and tone of your communications are major trust drivers, whether on paper, websites, in emails or texts, or in automated or voice conversations. Messages that don’t match up with your current brand can make customers distrust you. This is especially crucial in email communications, specifically for brands susceptible to spamming, phishing and malware. But, even paper communications using outdated logos and design will erode trust.

Solving Modern-Day Trust Issues With CCM 

Just having a CCM strategy isn’t enough to earn or rebuild customer trust. Today’s time-pressed, easily distracted customers want answers quickly via the channels they prefer and in the formats that they expect. An integrated, multichannel CCM platform provides a seamless experience in which communications are timely and relevant and reflect the customer’s previous interactions with your company. Trust us on this!

We invite you to download a free copy of Smart Communications’ recent report, “The State of Meaningful Conversations: Consumer Perspectives on What they Expect, What They’re Currently Receiving and Why it Matters.” You’ll get up-to-the-minute statistics and an analysis that you can use right away to guide your own customer communications strategy.