Businesses have a pretty serious problem on their hands: Customer trust in businesses is languishing. And studies show that trust is an essential ingredient for consumer loyalty and profitability. Customers want to know that they are dealing with a reputable company, one that won't try to take advantage of them.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case, part of the problem is admitting you have a problem. Trust is not something you can easily see, take a picture of, share with your colleagues, and simply fix. It has to be studied. Keep in mind that even if your organization is altruistic, it isn't immune to the overwhelming distrust customers have of businesses in general.
While several years have passed since The Great Recession, not only are consumers still sour over the economic collapse, but "high-profile calamities" continue to persist in business, according to our cover story, "The Complex Challenge of Repairing Customer Trust," by Paul Korzeniowski. The story gives examples of how the financial industry, the press, and the government have negatively affected consumer trust, so much so that in some areas, when measured, experts see a double-digit drop in consumer trust. Clearly, there's room for improvement.
The feature provides some helpful tips on how to enhance or repair customer trust, one of which is to encourage communication among peer groups on the Web and in social networks. "Businesses and business leaders must change their management approach and become more inclusive: They must seek the input of employees, consumers, activists, and various experts," Korzeniowski writes.
By joining customers' network of peers, consistently adding value, and delivering on promises, organizations have an opportunity to improve customer trust. Social community platform providers understand this. That's why over the past couple of years, companies such as Jive and Salesforce.com have been helping clients broaden their involvement in conversations with customers and partners by adding collaboration capabilities to their social community platforms.
As a result of these recent developments, organizations are enhancing their use of social community platforms, according to the feature story "Collaboration Meets Community Platforms," by Associate Editor Kelly Liyakasa. "In our original survey over four years ago, companies were very focused on using social [media] for outbound marketing. In the next round of surveys, the focus shifted to internal collaboration and building a knowledge-sharing culture," states an industry analyst in the story. "Last year, as companies matured in the use of social tools, the focus shifted yet again to integrated activities such as drawing customers and partners into the network, solving customer issues, and getting customer and partner feedback."
Read this feature to see examples of how community collaboration is being incorporated into customer service and support efforts. According to one industry pundit in the story, "it's all about reducing the friction for customers to find what they're looking for." He adds that not only will this improve customer satisfaction, but organizations will also see a return on investment.
If you're looking for some peer-to-peer collaboration of your own, register for the CRM Evolution conference (www.CRMevolution.com), from August 19–21, 2013, at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. This event will help you improve customer trust as well as loyalty, satisfaction, and profitability across sales, marketing, and customer service departments. Be ready to take copious notes, because we have once again amassed an impressive collection of industry experts who are ready to drop some serious knowledge.