Why trust is central to customer satisfaction and long-term engagement

By Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-founder, Eptica

We live in a complex and fast-changing world. Consumers face more and more demands on their time, and have a widening amount of choice when it comes to who they buy from. It’s therefore no coincidence that trust is rising in importance. Consumers want to engage with brands that they trust and who will deliver on their promises. This is becoming more widely recognised – for example trust is a central theme of this November’s Customer Engagement Summit.

So how can brands build trust with consumers and how good are they at delivering this vital quality? To find out the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust study questioned consumers on their attitudes to trust and customer experience, as well as evaluating the real-world performance of top brands at delivering the service that customers demand. From analysing the results, we can draw five key conclusions:

  1. Trust starts with delivering on your promises

When asked what factors build trust, consumers overwhelmingly focused on the basics. Nearly two-thirds (63%) ranked “making it easy and seamless to do what I want” as a top three reason that created trust. 59% listed ‘giving satisfactory, fast and consistent answers to my questions” as a factor behind increased trust between themselves and brands.

Trust cannot be bought – 35% of consumers rated ‘good advertising’ as the least important factor in building trust. Equally, despite the rise of social media, respondents don’t fully believe recommendations from websites/Twitter and Facebook – just 28% listed them as a top 3 factor in trust.

Essentially, consumers will only engage and trust brands that deliver on their promises at a basic level. After all, if a brand fails to answer your email or provides a difficult to use website, why would you trust them with more complex matters?

  1. The breakdown of trust has consequences

As I mentioned, we live in a world of expanding choice, shifting the balance of power between consumers and brands. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) said they would change to a rival or spend less if trust broke down. 49% would move to a rival immediately, with 30% starting to look for an alternative. This will clearly have a major impact on revenues if customers desert a company – particularly as we now live in a ‘winner takes all’ world. Every industry has new competitors eager to challenge even the most established brands, and many of these new entrants are focusing on customer service and customer experience to differentiate themselves.

  1. Trust is about listening and evolving how you operate

The key to understanding your customers and their needs is to listen, and act on the insight you receive from them. However, consumers don’t feel listened to – just 8% believe that brands are listening to them all the time, with three-quarters (74%) saying companies listen half the time or less.

These findings mirror what brands themselves say. 78% of companies surveyed by Eptica and Engage Business Media in 2018 said that while they measure customer satisfaction, they fail to turn what they learn into actionable business insight. Clearly, brands need to look again at their Voice of the Customer programmes, and ensure that they are delivering the results that they require to meet rising consumer demands.

  1. Many brands are not delivering a trustworthy experience

Consumers see trust as something that brands earn by delivering the service and experience that they require. However, according to the real-world evaluation carried out in the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study, many companies are lagging behind their peers. The study researched 50 brands in five sectors on their performance at providing answers to routine questions on the web, email, social media and chat. While overall performance has risen, with 69% of questions answered, compared to 59% in 2017, this masked major differences in performance. For example, just 37% of emails were answered by brands, with one bank taking 8 days to respond on the channel. One fashion retailer replied to a tweet in 17 minutes, yet another took 50 hours.

Essentially the best brands are getting better, with laggards trailing behind. This failure to answer even the most basic questions will undermine trust and ultimately put these organisations at a competitive disadvantage as customers desert them for rivals.

  1. Some sectors are trusted more than others

Looking at the consumer research within the study, certain industries have greater trust. Food retailers were trusted most (ranked first by 21% of respondents), followed by government (16%) and banks (12%). The least trusted are automotive/garages (16%), tech/social media (15%) and insurance and government (both 10%). This could be down to their historical reputation, the importance of trust (for example, consumers need to trust that food is fresh and that banks will protect their money), current issues over privacy and data protection (in the case of tech/social media) and the overall experience that the sector delivers.

However, this also provides an opportunity for brands in low-scoring sectors – becoming trusted by listening to consumers will deliver competitive differentiation and consequent revenue growth. A good example is in the insurance sector – a consumer is more likely to trust, and buy from, the company that provided answers to 80% of routine questions on its website, rather than picking one of the three insurers that only provided responses to 40% of them.

As trust becomes a vital part of the customer experience, it is critical that brands understand that it cannot be bought, and has to be earned. That means ensuring that they dedicate sufficient resources to customer service so that consumers receive the experience they want, feel listened to and are therefore loyal over the long-term. Build trust and you’ll build brand reputation, revenues and recommendations, whatever sector you operate in.

Download a full copy of the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study here.