Customer retention, the most obvious sign of trust for a business, is the number one 2018 strategic imperative for 87% of those surveyed, whereas other factors such as revenue growth, at 82% and profit, at 71%, saw their importance to businesses reduced in the past year.
Altify, the global leader in digital sales transformation technology released its second annual Business Performance Benchmark Study, a barometer of business leaders and the issues they face today.
Its findings echo discussions at last week’s Davos World Economic Forum, which detailed a ‘dramatic collapse’ in public trust of social media, US and global institutions.
Anthony Reynolds, CEO of Altify: “The Altify benchmark study sends a clear message that trust and customer retention are the top business priority for 2018. The question is how to put in place business processes and sales campaigns that engender trust. Today’s sales leaders and executives need to be armed with facts, deep knowledge of the customer and bring real value and insight to build lasting trust. In a world of digital disruption, Altify helps sales leaders and their teams identify and answer the questions at the heart of customer needs. The survey shows there are no shortcuts to customer retention.”
Altify’s primary research delved into the impact of trust on business performance. It found that even in today’s world of remote e-commerce and mobile purchasing, trust has become the major hurdle to overcome for businesses buying goods and services from each other. The independent research, across 422 global business people and executives, revealed the following additional key findings:
The overall business outlook remains positive
Survey respondents are bullish on the overall business environment, with 87% reporting a positive outlook on business in 2018. With the S&P500 up over 21% in 2017, and the Dow Jones recently crossing 25,000 for the first time in 2018, the strong market performance is reflected in the high confidence in business conditions.
Company brand and top managers less trustworthy this year
Corporate buyers are twice as likely to trust advice from a peer or a competitor than the CEO of the company they are buying from. When making a purchase decision, 53% of respondents trust peers in other companies and only 27% trust the selling company’s CEO. Company reputations are less trusted in the wake of CEO resignations and selling scandals at Uber, Equifax and Samsung. Company reputation was trusted by just 47% of respondents, down from 54% in 2017.
Trust in government is in steep decline
Lack of confidence and trust is a major concern with 50% of respondents indicating they trust the government less this year as compared to one year ago, up from 42% last year. Women at 65% and Millennials/Gen Y (35 years old and younger) at 69% show the greatest decline in trust of government institutions.
Social Media regarded as Fake News
Just as in their personal life, when it comes to making buying decisions, trust in social media content amongst corporate buyers is on the decline year-on-year, from 15% to 13%.
Sales leaders fear disruption from robots more than ISIS, Brexit or China
For some, like Elon Musk, it seems AI is the biggest risk facing humans. Businesses too are less worried by global terrorism (6%), instability in China (9%), political change in the US (11%), or Brexit and the EU (19%). The most disruptive forces expected are Digital Transformation (55%) and advancements in Artificial Intelligence (32%), growing from 26% from 2017.
Company diversity impacts buying decisions
Global business focus on diversity, inclusion and equal pay for women is impacting customer’s purchasing decisions. More than one-third of respondents (35%) indicated that a company’s track record on diversity impacts buying behaviour. 71% of respondents indicated that a company’s diversity policy has an impact on business performance.
The first line sales leader is the critical ingredient to growth
Growing revenue is the second most important corporate priority in 2018, but success in driving increased sales rests not in the executive suite, but on the front line. Respondents report a 75% increase in revenue when they have effective front line sales management.