Trust Is Key to Creating a Customer Bond

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In good times and bad, in flourishing and weakening economies, people expect companies to be empathetic, responsive, respectful, and reliable. Customers expect companies to work hard to earn their trust, resolve their issues, listen to their feedback, and protect their data. If an interaction doesn’t have the right tone, isn’t timed right, or doesn’t meet the customer’s needs, it can undermine trust and the customer is far more likely to seek other products or services, according to a Deloitte report titled “Getting Sticky: Turning Brand into Bond.”

With the ongoing pandemic, it’s more important than ever for businesses to connect with people at a human level—not just as customers but as individuals, says Tim Greulich, Deloitte’s operational customer experience practice leader and co-author of the report.

Deloitte’s own research finds that customers see the following as the most important in trusting a company:

  • quality products or services (83 percent);
  • fair prices (71 percent);
  • issues fixed in a timely manner (55 percent);
  • helpful employees (48 percent); and
  • a company-customer history (40 percent).

By empowering contact center agents and store employees to be more responsive to the needs of customers through new access to data, technologies, and ways of working, companies can infuse more human-like qualities across all customer touchpoints, the report suggests.

But companies are largely failing at the contact center, according to the report. Nearly three-quarters of surveyed consumers said they would accept assistance from a telephone service agent. Yet people were more likely to complain about telephone service experiences than any other type of service interaction.

“Companies aren’t delivering on the customer need,” Greulich says. “Customers are going to the phone because [self-service] was too complicated or they didn’t like the answer they got.”

So many customers are already frustrated when they reach an agent, who needs to be able to better understand their value to provide the appropriate service.

Companies can provide agents with visual representations of customer values and automated triggers to prompt agents with customer recommendations, says Greulich, who also advises that companies have systems in place to give agents real-time feedback.

Companies that fail to build bonds with customers are often failing to connect with them as individuals, Greulich says. “The product or service will only take you so far. You need to understand personal relationships in order to build bonds with customers.”

When asked why they would consider switching to a competitor after faithfully buying from one provider for three years or more, respondents said the top two reasons were cheaper price (33 percent) and higher quality (26 percent). Only 2 percent said they would do so to seek better customer service. Yet three out of five respondents said they would likely abandon their favorite brands after just one bad customer service interaction. Two out of three said they would also be unlikely to purchase from a favorite company again if they received no solution after a complaint.

While product prices or features initially draw customers toward the company, businesses need to create bonds with customers for continued business, Greulich adds. At the same time, though, if the product’s price or features change significantly, the bond alone might not be enough to continue the customer relationship.

People also want companies to use their data to provide better service and personalization, so companies should reorient themselves to focus on nurturing a unique relationship of shared value with each customer by leaning into the experience and contextual data that customers provide, Greulich advises.

While customer data is essential in building customer relationships, it needs to be used correctly, Greulich adds. “Companies need to pay more attention to data governance. They can’t just collect data for data’s sake.”

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