Some say trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it breaks, but you’ll still see the cracks. Personally, I think that is too downbeat a view, particularly following the frank discussions we had this week at Industry Council on regaining customer trust.
Identifying ways to use the contact centre to repair trust is a priority across CCA membership for 2014, featuring as one of our most popular strands of research. During discussions with Industry Council this week I was struck by the sincerity, passion and collective will and ability of our members to tackle the issue head-on.
We also see a commitment to rebuilding trust in the deluge of requests we’ve had for more information on Global Standard© Version 6, which is an important tool for helping organisations get closer to customers - a prerequisite for building trust. We are currently shaping Version 6 in a way which responds to a thirst for improvement among members and uses shared intelligence to really drive organisational change.
I see a widespread resolve to act like ‘new entrants’ and a recognition that this requires overcoming obstacles such as legacy systems or processes, which prevent effective customer engagement. We are identifying the core strengths of new entrants and analysing how these can be replicated.
There is a keen awareness that public trust has been sorely tested in recent years, with sectors such as banking and energy particularly badly affected but also government and public sector organisations. Recent data show some divergence on the issue with the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer showing the largest ever gap between trust in business and government since the study began in 2001, with trust in business steadily rising from a low in 2008 while trust in governments is still declining.
There is no room for complacency however as Edelman warned, there is still “...a reputation hangover for business from the Great Recession of 2008.”
Ipsos Mori CEO Ben Page provided fresh insight, arguing that in the UK there is not only a lack of public trust but also cynicism about the ability of politicians to influence the economy and significant concerns over how personal data is used. Ipsos Mori found that customers are more likely to leave a supermarket or a bank which has sold anonymised data to a third party than to leave because they have damaged the environment or paid huge bonuses to bosses.
The reality is that we are all increasingly mapped, measured and tracked every day generating huge amounts of data through simple transactions such as buying groceries with loyalty cards or just filling in online forms. Such information can be used positively to provide a more tailored and personalised service but the public is not convinced that all organisations will use their personal information responsibly.
Building trust at a time of not only cynicism but also conflict and confusion among the public is no mean feat. People understand that the economy is recovering but they don’t feel better off personally, which means there is still a high level of anxiety and vulnerability among consumers, accompanied by a reluctance to believe that businesses really care about their views.
Our latest research with Verint showed that just 24% of people think companies take notice of their views and only 29% feel valued as a customer. As well as illustrating the depth of public mistrust, it highlights an opportunity for customer contact operations to rebuild trust by introducing more proactive structured ‘listening’ strategies.
Multi-channel touchpoints present a challenge but also an opportunity to build trust through every interaction. Historically, people viewed live conversations as the prime means of building trust but the example of Amazon’s slick remote service shows that consistently fulfilling your customer promise regardless of channel is important.
That requires paying greater attention to the effectiveness of self-serve options such as IVR, ensuring that such systems are customer-friendly and reliable. Providing efficient and well-designed options such as webchat and mobile apps can result in big shifts in channel usage patterns and ultimately happier customers who are more willing to trust a brand.
In a sense, IT developments, the rise of social media as a customer channel and the adoption of mobile devices have led to greater complexity for both customers and customer contact operations. Now is the time to focus on what matters most, which is essentially three key things: