The Cost Of Mistrust

The Cost Of Mistrust

The Liveworker
  • The Liveworker
  • Service Designer

Customer trust is intangible, difficult to grasp, emotional and somehow irrational. And yet, it is a top priority for any business to survive. How do you build trust? Why is it important? Customer trust is all about what you do, not what you say… and this is just the beginning.

Customer relationship is built on trust

There are many ways to build trust with customers. A good response to an incident or a service failure is only one of those ways. There are various stages in the customer lifecycle where organisations should deliver what customers expect, not what internal processes find convenient. When you identify customer expectations in those key stages and go meet them, you become trustworthy in the eyes of your customers, laying a foundation for a lasting relationship.

Trust is a state of mind

Trust fundamentally is a human condition. It happens deep inside of us and often cannot be explained or rationalised. Whether it is customer or consumer trust, ultimately it is about why people as humans find you trustworthy. For instance, a telecom provider requires renewing subscribers to sign a contract of four pages. As customers, these subscribers might understand why the provider needs to do this; but as humans, these subscribers probably think the provider doesn’t trust them and thinks they might steal the phone.

Trust is a state of mind, hugely shaped by past experiences. After a bad experience with one service provider, the consumer or customer might be more skeptical of another provider in the same or even a different sector. A bad experience with an energy provider, for instance, may undermine people’s trust in their banks. In fact, energy and banking sectors are the least trusted among consumers, with only 61% and 54% of consumers trust them respectively.

Tackle the root causes of mistrust

Consumers are becoming less trusting. When they check mobile phone bills multiple times, or read every word of an insurance contract, they are basically saying “I don’t trust you with my money” or “You’ll to find a way to trick me”. Instead of finding ways to fight these “symptoms”, organisations should tackle the root causes of mistrust among consumers.

Here is how we approached the challenge in Brazil with one of our clients, Vivo:

Mistrust of the financial sector is a global phenomenon. The situation is particularly dire in countries such as India, China and Indonesia, where more than 75% of consumers say they don’t trust the sector. South Africa, Mexico and Brazil follow, with levels of mistrust around 60%. Mistrust makes it difficult to get consumers buy-in for new products or services.

Trust your customers first

Trust is about reciprocity. Organisations must take the first step to show they trust their customers, then customers are likely to reciprocate and trust you back. Our work across sectors reveals that trust can be contagious.  

Offering flexibility to customers is one of the first steps in demonstrating trust, although it remains not a common practice across industries. For example, in the telecoms industry, providers tend to lock customers into lengthy contracts, without any flexibility to adapt to customers’ changing needs. Unsurprisingly, almost half of telecoms' customers do not trust their providers, making the industry one of the least trusted.

Trust is cost-effective

Mistrust of customers often results in huge investments in people, processes, and systems. Training staff to be able to deal with potentially malicious customers, setting up tailor made processes, or systems to track and secure, are some of the common investments that result from mistrust in the customer. Sometimes, however, trusting customers is simply a more effective approach. A pan-European telecoms operator chose to address customer irritations such as “why do I have to sign 4 times for a contract?” and “I’ve been a customer for years, why do I have to fill out my details again?” by embracing trust. Taking the position of “we trust our customers” enabled them to significantly reduce the number of transactions, approvals and signatures required for a contract. Customers experienced shorter wait times and a far easier process when renewing a contract.

Complex internal processes stemmed from mistrust are major sources of customer irritation, particularly in the telecoms and financial sectors. Trust in customers is shown by flexible integrated systems which should be accountable across all channels. Complex processes and mistrust set a bad tone for the relationship between customers and their providers throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

The journey towards trust

It is of crucial importance to understand “moments of truth”, or particular interactions in which customers form an impression of your organisation. This tells you how and when to show your customers that you trust them, and helps you look at the trust issue from the customer perspective. While some internal processes might make perfect sense to the organisation, they appear a signal of mistrust in the eyes of your customers. It also helps you simplify your internal processes and the way you deal with customers.

A close examination of the consumer lifecycle in each industry reveals moments across different stages that could be defined as “moments of truth”, where people expect their service providers to trust them. This revelation helps you plan and design customer experience that builds trust more timely and effectively. Failing to trust customers at these stages hurts customer relationship profoundly.

Earn customer trust back

Customer behaviour often reveals mistrust in your organisation. To earn their trust back, the first step is to understand the human aspect of trust. Trust is contagious and reciprocal; when you trust your customers first, they are then likely to trust you. Therefore, you must identify the “moments of truth” in your customer relationship, and set a trusting tone as early as possible. Simplifying the way you do business with customers is a great way to build trust.