Of course, it is such an obvious comment but so many business strategies and philosophies in recent years have been arguably arrogant at times, communicating in an ever more process-led narrative and with less personal connection.
It is hardly a shock to suggest that stronger businesses are built through good relationships and trust; yet still so many businesses operate through calls centres and automated systems which leave customers confused and frustrated.
The reason? Of course, a mix of cost, systems and efficiencies. The challenge is not to view customer service and experience as a cost but as an economic asset; something which builds trust.
Does it really matter if a customer does have trust in a business?
A report in 2018 by Accenture noted that in the modern world, it does very much matter and estimated that over $2.5 trillion per year was lost through lack of trust and a potential 41% loss of clients. This does make every business have more vulnerability than should be the case. It also noted that 34% find more value in services which learn of their needs through personal services.
However, the issue goes deeper as Accenture noted that:
“Those that succeed will hit a sweet spot whereby customers will be willing to share more personal insights into their world in return for greater value and the confidence that their data is protected.”
The equation is simple: Trust = greater potential data, information and sales opportunities.
The issue of trust has been which has often not been taken seriously enough across all walks of life. Trust has been eroded through a whole number of factors over the last twenty years.
- There is little doubt the relatively new concept of “fake news” has eroded trust in the media. Both “fake news” and “alternative facts” have become almost accepted issues and many are showing signs of turning away from leading news channels.
- There is little doubt that politics did lose trust with a series of scandals over the years.
- For companies, as already noted, consumers do lack trust in the behaviours of many companies and many Millennial employees do not trust in the business ethics of their own companies.
- In the modern world, the issue gets heightened with the fact the personal data is held by those who are sometimes not trusted. In one report in 2019, it was noted that in one year, there were 4.5 billion records were compromised.
- The same report stated that “86% of consumers wished that businesses would tell them how their data is being used, and 91% reported that they would be more likely to trust a business that was transparent”
Trust is the major battleground
Trust is the battleground that every business today does need to win. In simple terms:
- It lays down a basis for a good relationship between a client/customer and the business. It provides an informal licence to trade successfully and also to be able to achieve higher sales revenues per customer.
- Trust can only be rebuilt by companies connecting on a stronger level with their customers. Service can and will play a crucial role in establishing this platform.
- However, it is deeper. Companies need to build authentic ties with communities and in social initiatives. As many of the emerging generations have changed their focus towards the importance of both “local and global” causes, so they will naturally lean towards those companies that share this outlook.
- Although the world today has never been more connected, more transparent and open; it is the almost old-fashioned techniques and values which may well prove to be of most importance.
- Customers who trust and believe in a brand or company become the best marketing tool for that company. They become the ambassadors for building trust once again.
- The same can be said in relation to employees and how local communities do trust in an organisation. The local community becomes a major advocate for the company as an employer and as a business.
- In a world which is increasingly transparent and vulnerable, it is important to almost behave in the same way – with vulnerability, unafraid to talk with openness and honesty. The same is asked of leaders. There needs to be far less spin and more honesty.
In a world which is aiming to rebuild, it is fascinating that in so many ways the above values could also be related to the rebuilding of economies after the Second World War. Of course, that situation was far worse: 60 million dead.
It was estimated that in 1945, most Europeans were living off 1,000 calories per day and it acted as an accelerator in new science and technology. It lay the ground for modern computers, for the advent of penicillin, and it brought together a new philosophy that each society needed to care for its vulnerable again.
In the UK, it led to the radical Labour Government, under Clement Atlee, which founded the NHS. The war also advanced the importance of women: in France and Italy, women were given the vote. In his Four Freedoms speech of January 1941, President Roosevelt talked of a new and more just world, with freedom of speech and expression and of religion, and freedom from want and fear. Traditional old-fashioned “empires” did crumble.
The British pulled out of India in 1947, leaving behind two new countries of India and Pakistan. Burma, Sri Lanka and Malaysia followed the road of independence not long after. The Dutch fought a losing war but finally conceded independence to Indonesia, the former Dutch East Indies, in 1949. France tried to regain its colonies in Indochina but was forced out in 1954 after a humiliating defeat at the hands of Vietnamese forces. The Europeans’ African empires crumbled in the 1950s and early 1960s. The United Nations grew from 51 nations in 1945 to 189 by the end of the century.
There are clear parallels between the eras and many similar desires. As the world becomes ever more advanced, it may well be that the base truths never really change? People do desire:
- Strong local communities and a caring society
- Real collaboration within communities and with countries, without control.
- A desire for greater freedoms, less control: more openness and transparency
- A desire for trust in leadership and in strong ethics, behaviours.
The challenge is to rebuild trust in a world which is under increased pressure. It is not hard to be achieved. It can easily be done but it does need a genuine new focus on the importance of relationships and trust.