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Guest Blogger: Vanessa Saulsberry | February 21, 2014

Busted: 7 Ludicrous Myths About Customer Trust

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Thanks to Wikileaks, NSA revelations, and a host of questionable policies, it's no wonder that trust in government is at an all-time low. What I find interesting is that business leaders don't fare much better than their government counterparts in key areas, according to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer. So, I set out to understand why and what I found was unanticipated.

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Here are seven silly assumptions about customer trust that just aren't true:

1. Only web-based companies have to worry about trust: Every company must do more than simply adhere to privacy policies and fulfill agreements--this is what Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., refer to as being trustworthy. To be truly trustable--a higher form of trustworthiness--companies must seek to understand customers' needs--anticipate, fulfill, and service their needs--all while acting in their best interest.

2. What customers don't know won't hurt them: From the data breach at Neiman Marcus in which initial hacks weren't revealed until months later, to Caribbean's "poop cruise," we've witnessed time and time again that concealing issues isn't the right move. Instead of hiding the truth companies should get out in front of situations as soon as possible so that customers know they are being proactive.

3. If customers make bad decisions, there's nothing we can do: It's not acceptable for companies to stand by and let customers make mistakes that could be avoided. For example, I received a warning via text recently from my mobile carrier that I was about to go over my minutes. I was appreciative because the company could have let me talk my face off, and then hit me with overage charges at the end of the month. Customers will trust companies that do everything in their power to shield them from making mistakes or bad decisions.

4. Honesty in advertising builds trust: A recent Huffington Post article explains that consumers don't really trust advertising. What they do trust is word of mouth and their own experiences. In fact, word of mouth goes an impressively long way in establishing customer trust today, according to Nielson's Global Trust in Advertising report.

5. We're a household brand therefore trust is inherent: A recent blog post from Forrester suggests that some decade-old brands often control "mindshare" and therefore market share. However, as the long tail gets longer and more niche companies serve up customizable products, services, and experiences, the quicker that mindshare will evaporate.

6. One bad experience cannot damage trust: "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." -Warren Buffet. Research has found that the majority of customers will leave a company for the competition after a poor experience, especially if it is not addressed swiftly and effectively. All companies make mistakes, but when they do, owning up to them and setting a clear path to reparation helps build trust.

7. We earn trust through our loyalty program: Holding a points-based loyalty card doesn't imply trust; it means that customers want to save some money whenever they decide to do business with you. Indeed, a 2011 Colloquy Census found that $48 billion in loyalty rewards were earned in the U.S., yet $16 billion went unused. Perhaps if more companies focused on the customer experience--no matter what channel--and engaged customers through these types of efforts, more patrons would be inclined to cash in those rewards.

Call it skepticism or just plain ignorance but this line of thinking puts companies at an extreme disadvantage in our competitive climate. According to Peppers and Rogers, earning customer trust and therefore long-term competitive advantage can only be obtained when we do things right, do the right thing, and do both proactively. So, let's etch these principles into our company culture:

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Think your company is trustable? Take the Extreme Trust quiz.


About the author:

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Vanessa Saulsberry is Senior Project Manager, Marketing and Client Delivery, at 1to1 Media

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