The reduction in the quality of our relationships, be they between government and citizens, institutions and customers, or even among fellow road users, is seemingly on an ever downward spiral.
After all, ‘we – the people’ revel in watching societies fractures and fissures play out on reality TV, we wade in with equal amounts of gusto and bile into social media, armed with complete anonymity or at least the remoteness of a digital-only connection, and some of us act poorly towards people we’re utterly ignorant of.
We all know however, that the ruination of society is thankfully not at our door because we put things like fake news, shameless narcissists or bigots, and political despots in a context. We’re all owners and operators of our ‘trust radar’ that screens the world around us. This in-built ability helps us decide both, rationally and instinctively, what deserves our trust and what does not.
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Like a hierarchy of needs, our trust radar operates across the very highest order elements like security from foreign invasion, preventing medical epidemics, or incarcerating evil criminals, to lower and routine stuff like choosing insurance, buying a bottle of wine, or selecting a place to stay overnight.
And it’s this lower level of the hierarchy where trust, or the lack of it, has shifted to become much more important, perhaps even central to determining the future sustainability of businesses, their operating models and their brands. I’m talking specifically about the level of trust we have for corporations and their products.
The traditional orthodoxies seeded in the 60’s consumer boom, but perfected and amplified in the 80’s, 90’s created a new playbook on what it took for a business to win trust, then patronage, and then advocacy. In essence there were four over-arching attributes;
- Be well known
- Be well regarded
- Be accessible
- Be reliable
It worked in large part, because on the demand side, consumers we’re wooed by an explosion of choice, appealing imagery, well crafted copy, and positive word-of-mouth. On the supply side, it worked because mass-market manufacturing spawned mass distribution then mass media, and ultimately mass consumption.
It made little difference if you were a local shop, a regional bank, or a global beverage, you won or lost customers and markets, conditional to those four attributes that when combined, created among other things, a sense of trustworthiness.
This is not 1990 though. The decades since, and especially the last decade, have taught buyers to become more discerning, more savvy, more aware of over-claim, less seduced by ubiquity, hollow promises, and in the end, far less gullible.
To win markets, TRUST, will become a key distinguishing attribute businesses foster, then measure, then scale.
According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, building future trust today is much more holistic and not simply being good at what you primarily do.
This left hand side of the model, the ‘hygiene’ grouping, is by no means easy. Some businesses struggle to be transparent and open, many err for instance in pursuing aggressive value extraction tactics from their customers which actually diminishes trust, with others finding that innovating meaningfully is beyond the capacity of the team in place. The right hand side of the model is additional to the hygiene layer. It’s what I’ve labeled as ‘trust as an asset layer’, as earnings and shareholder value growth through patronage, loyalty and advocacy is generated. Importantly there is an internal lens to employees as well as several external lenses both directly to the customer but also the shared community, both near and far, that the organisation and the customer co-inhabit.
Building a CX strategy and resulting CX operating model is the most effective way to initially understand your organisations Trust Deficit, then develop and implement tactical, medium and long-term strategies to turn that deficit into serious advantage.
Importantly, a CX transformation should in time stretch right across the organisation, not just be focused in a single function which has been a common practice to date. Sure, key areas will require attention and be prioritised, and not all areas will need the same amount of change, but the key is building alignment over time, and consistently building out the trust attributes.
Doing so will create customer relationships that are hard to compete with – and that is something really bankable.