It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the brands most loved by customers are also the most trusted brands. And our recent research on brand love backs this up.
In our State of Brand Love report, we surveyed customers to build a framework for identifying, improving, and growing brand love. The framework places brands in either an “inner circle” (brands that are most loved by respondents) or an “outer circle” (brands that are actively avoided by respondents). By contrasting the two groups using the inner/outer circle model, we were able to determine the factors that make people love their most cherished brands, and why others don’t make the cut.
In our research, we were also able to identify quality, customer experience (CX), and trust as key factors that contribute to brand love. Brands that invest in and succeed in these three areas are more likely to achieve brand love. With this in mind, we explain how to design, build, and run brand love, which includes staying true to your brand’s personality, building one-to-one relationships with customers, and consistently delivering exceptional customer experiences.
With 77% of customers responding that they first tried an inner circle product or service because of a recommendation from a trusted source, we realized that the presence of trust was critical to nurturing brand love. Below, we highlight three major ways the most dependable brands build trust with their customers.
Quality of Products and Services
We’ve all been there when a new sweater rips after two washes. You feel let down, because you expected that the sweater would last more than two wash cycles. You may even question why you chose to shop for that particular brand of sweater over another.
When experiences like this happen, a customer’s trust can be shattered, and it becomes difficult to win that trust back. Why would customers spend their hard-earned money on something that might break quickly and easily?
And this echoes what we heard in our research. Speaking about a specific technology company, one of our survey respondents said, “My curved screen TV broke after only a year and I don’t trust them anymore.” Ultimately, product quality is king, with the majority (38%) of survey respondents citing quality as the biggest aspect of the customer experience to inform their brand satisfaction rating.
Have you ever had your bank account compromised and were forced to wait a long time on the phone to even speak to a customer service representative? Of course you’ve been through something similar—we all have. And when our expectations for customer service aren’t met in tense moments, it only increases our anxiety.
Customers expect brands to go above and beyond when they need assistance or encounter a problem. Our research shows that customer service is two times more likely than cost to drive Net Promoter Score (NPS) (27% vs. 15%). In particular, there are three industries where service especially stands out: banking and financial services, healthcare, and travel and hospitality (54%, 49%, and 50% of survey responses, respectively, when asked what aspects of the customer experience informed their ratings).
And we received many open-ended survey responses that reflect this. When speaking about their experience with a large national bank, one respondent explained, “When I was hacked, they worked with me to get all my money back. I trust them.” Similarly, another participant lamented about a large healthcare system: “My family members have been misdiagnosed. So this is not a healthcare company that I would ever trust after so many negative experiences.”
Authenticity and Ethics
Customers have increasingly expected, and even demanded, brands they buy from to be authentic and ethical—meaning that they are who they claim to be, which is an organization that does right by society and the environment.
Interestingly, we discovered a spike in the impact of reputation and business practices when asking respondents about the biggest aspects of the customer experience to affect brand dissatisfaction. As a driver of satisfaction, it ranks almost last, but as a driver of dissatisfaction it jumps to third position (with particular spikes for banking and financial services at 32%, healthcare at 18%, and media & communications at 46%). This isn’t surprising seeing as how these industries are uniquely service-oriented compared to other product-forward industries.
In the words of one respondent: “They made many mistakes with our accounts, costing us money and credit score repairs. Not trusting one’s bank is never good.” We agree.
Practical Ways to Gain Trust with Customers
Of course, the remedy to fix each of these building blocks to trustworthiness seem obvious—if you create high-quality products, customers can trust that they’ll last. If you implement top-notch customer service, then customers will trust that you will help them in their hour of need. And if you remain ethical in your business practices, you can avoid any major scandals that can tarnish your brand in the eyes of customers.
But there are other ways that you can gain trust. Here are some actions you can take:
- Focus on consistent emotions. Consistency doesn’t mean rigid adherence to things. The consistency lies in the emotional response customers have to the brand. As long as the customer feels the consistency, you have a lot more appeal because your customer trusts your brand identity as a whole.
- Find a way to show up and be an authentic participant in different communities. Customers today are more socially and environmentally conscious than ever before, and they want to choose brands whose values align to their own. This presents a unique opportunity for brands to differentiate by authentically giving back in ways that align to their brand values—and that matter to their customers.
- Stay in-tune to where customers place their trust. Is it online reviews? Social media? Pay attention—and be responsive—to customer feedback about your brand, such as through voice of the customer (VOC) surveys, social listening, and web analytics. You can build closer connections—and trust—when customers feel heard.
No brand is ever going to be perfect, but many brands can grow their trust with customers through their actions and words. The most trusted brands invest in the quality of their products and services, exceed expectations in their customer service practices, and act ethically to their core.
Discover more tips on how to earn your customers’ trust in our latest report, State of Brand Love.
VP, Loyalty Solutions