Over the years, many people have seen the rapid growth in CRM and Customer Experience technology as evidence that the “secret sauce” in finding, delighting and retaining customers is software.
I cannot deny that having worked with many leading software vendors and consultancies in the past, this can make a huge difference in this “digital first” world.
However, there is something missing that the Pandemic has reminded us of.
Two contrasting stories:
My wife was trying to find a tiler for some work on the house. I jumped on Tradie websites, read reviews and drew up a shortlist, proving to my wife just how effective I could be at selecting the right person for the job. I mean, it’s a logical process, right? My wife interviewed them all and received a range of quotes and some very different experiences. I had my favourite. The guy was punctual, polite, had great references and was highly rated. The next day, I asked my wife when he was due to start. She then “told” me in no uncertain terms that she had hired her choice, Mario. When I asked why, she simply said that our carpenter, Matt, had recommended Mario. Since she trusted Matt and his recommendations, we were going to use Mario.
A friend of ours is a very, very good mechanic. 2 years ago, he took the plunge to set up his own company which is booming. However, his success has led to him becoming so busy that I have felt he has become unreliable, probably taking too much work on. I have always had a “know, like and trust” relationship with him and feel, probably like all his other customers, that my trade is very important to him. However, after waiting two months for him to get back to me regarding a part he was going to fit, I reluctantly concluded that he had probably forgotten about me as he had become too busy. I began to think about finding a new mechanic but was reminded that I had always trusted him so decided to call him to find out what the delay was. It turned out he had left a message on my voicemail six weeks prior and thought that I had forgotten about it as I was probably too busy!!! I regretted ever doubting him.
That is the thing with Trust. It is the bridge between uncertainty and certainty.
Trust gives you the confidence to make decisions. Conversely, a lack of trust gives you confidence to break relationships.
The excellent video below by Rachel Botsman articulates it brilliantly.
So how is trust built?
In the 21st century, if we accept that “Distributed” Trust based upon Rachels “Trust Stack” is created by “the idea, the platform and the other user” as per the Bla Bla Car example, how does this relate to creating loyal customers?
I go back to the principle of People, Process and Technology as the cornerstones of successful customer relationships and experiences.
You could argue that in developing trust, the idea is the process, the platform is the technology and the people is the user.
People: Advocation for an individual is the highest form of trust because in doing so, you are staking your own reputation. I never recommend lightly. I like to think that my advocation is respected by those who trust me. Therefore we should never underestimate the power of the trust for a person in developing customer relationships. Be true to your word and think about long term gains, not quick wins. Matt had nothing to gain through his advocacy but we trust him. This explains why my wife chose Mario. It was a “super” choice!
Process: Do you believe in the way things are done between you and the customer? If you think about brands that you are loyal to, ask yourself why? It might be the engagement, the quality of product or service or, just possibly, it might be that dealing with them fits your idea of meeting your needs. These, to me, are examples whereby the process is important which drives trust, thereby loyalty.
Technology: In the distributed trust model, the platform enables the customer relationship. It could be Air BNB as a platform for “trusting” strangers to stay in your home. It could be Trip Advisor for “trusting” the recommendations and feedback of strangers. It could be Compare The Market for seeking better deals. The list is endless but the technology we choose has to be trusted. Therefore in developing customer relationships, the technology “platform” has to be one that you can trust because it is reliable, sustainable, easy to use etc.
In times of economic uncertainty, I believe trust becomes a safety net that we subconsciously rely upon. In this “new world” of adapting to changing paradigms, trust is more important than ever in creating lasting and valuable customer relationships. In this respect, the forgotten factor has become the defining factor.