• June 30, 2015
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Customer Trust Continues its Slide

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Consumer trust is, once again, on the decline. The issue has become a popular topic since the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals surfaced in the early 2000s. Considering more than a decade has passed since then, and organizations have access to better customer listening and engagement tools than ever before, why are companies still struggling with customer trust?

According to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, a report that measures global consumer trust, technology is partly to blame. In a summary of the findings, Richard Edelman, the report author, wrote, “More than half of the global informed public believe that the pace of development and change in business today is too fast, that business innovation is driven by greed and money rather than a desire to improve people’s lives or make the world a better place.” The two biggest offending practices, according to survey respondents, are genetically modified foods and hydraulic fracturing (see “Global Customer Trust Hits a New Low,” by Associate Editor Oren Smilansky).

Other recent events have also contributed to the erosion of customer trust. Chief among them are data security breaches. In my column “Adapt or Perish When Digital Disruption Strikes” (CRM, May 2015), I wrote about my personal experience when Anthem informed me that its database for Blue Cross/Blue Shield customers had been hacked and my family’s personal information had been stolen. Exasperated, I looked for alternative healthcare options. The only reason why I haven’t switched providers is because I haven’t found a viable alternative. Essentially, I’m stuck. However, if a reasonable alternative comes along, I’ll have no problem making the switch. I feel this way about any company that doesn’t carefully safeguard my family’s sensitive data.

I’m sure I’m not alone. An organization that violates its consumers’ trust is essentially inviting them to take their business elsewhere.

So how can a business improve customer trust? First, it must take measures to protect it. This means that if customers entrust their sensitive data to a company, it is the organization’s responsibility to safeguard it by taking a proactive approach to data security. For advice, read the recent feature story “In Data Security, It’s a Numbers Game” (CRM, June 2015), by News Editor Leonard Klie.

Another way to build trust is to positively engage employees so they become ambassadors for your brand. This means organizations have to focus on improving their corporate culture. I’m sure most professionals don’t need to be convinced that there’s a direct correlation between happy employees and happy customers. But improving employee engagement and morale is easier said than done. For some helpful suggestions, read this month’s cover story, “Great Customer Experience Starts with the Right Corporate Culture,” by Associate Editor Maria Minsker. With these tips, perhaps many organizations can get their customer trust off the floor.


Improving corporate culture will be a hot topic during this year’s CRM Evolution conference at the Marriott Marquis in New York City (August 17–19). Here, you can join CRM analysts, consultants, vendors, and peers to learn how to take your CRM efforts to the next level. If you register by July 17, you can receive a $100 discount off the full conference price or the All Access pass to the CRM Evolution, Customer Service Experience, and SpeechTEK conferences. I hope you will join us there. For more information, visit www.CRMevolution.com.

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