Customer trust: Definition, importance, and 5 ways to gain it
Customer trust is key to driving loyalty and business success. To earn it, companies must understand and respect their customers and provide relevant, personalized experiences.
Published November 15, 2021
Last updated March 22, 2022
In the early 2010s, the Age of the Customer emerged. Consumers were more connected than ever before, and as their access to information and resources grew, so did their expectations.
The Age of the Customer continues today—and the data shows it. Gartner research reveals that 74 percent of customers expect more from brands, not only in their products and services but also in how they treat their customers. And 83 percent of consumers say they will not do business with brands they don’t trust.
Building trust with customers is critical to boosting loyalty—and your bottom line—but how exactly do you earn it? Customer trust is dependent on a company’s ability to tap into the human experience and form an emotional connection with customers by displaying sensitivity, transparency, honesty, and dependability. When it comes to driving business, how customers feel about a brand has 1.5 times more impact than how they think.
Read on to learn how you can form those deep connections with your customers and gain their confidence.
What is customer trust?
Customer trust is the faith a consumer has in a company. It shows confidence in a company’s commitment to delivering on its promises and doing what’s right for the customer.
Customer trust is the faith a consumer has in a company.
3 reasons customer trust is important for business growth
Customer trust is essential to forming and fostering long-term relationships with your core audience. After all, it enables you to deliver better experiences, increase loyalty, and retain more customers.
1. Provide personalized experiences
Customer trust is key for personalization—an expectation of today’s consumers. Why? Because you can’t offer a truly tailored customer experience unless you have access to customer data, which can only be collected if your customers trust you. But once you obtain that information, you must protect it. If a company misuses, shares, or sells a customer’s personal data, the relationship is pretty much over. It takes a lot of work to win back buyers’ trust.
2. Foster loyalty
Customer trust goes hand in hand with loyalty and brand advocacy. If customers believe your company is continually improving and striving to provide the best experience possible, they’ll act as champions for your brand, products, or services. They’ll not only continue to do business with you, but they’ll also spread positive word-of-mouth referrals and serve as your go-to customers for valuable feedback.
3. Form connections
Customer trust is worth cultivating because it leads to deeper connections, which is exactly what consumers want. Today’s buyers no longer see brand loyalty as merely making repeat purchases from one company—they’re seeking more meaningful relationships with their favorite businesses. In fact, 41 percent of customers now believe “brand loyalty” means having an emotional connection to the brand.
How to gain customer trust and confidence
- Make customer service a priority
- Be transparent
- Share customer feedback
- Connect with customers
- Invest in your employees
Building trust with customers requires that you acknowledge and respect their needs at every stage of the relationship—from first contact through their lifetime as a customer. Adopt a customer-centric mindset and consistently deliver an exceptional brand experience, and you’ll be in a strong position to earn customer loyalty.
1. Make excellent customer service a priority
Both sales and support teams can develop customer trust by setting and meeting high service standards.
Deliver unique experiences by personalizing every interaction with your customers. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report shows that 76 percent of consumers expect personalization. They want brands to take the information they have about them and use it to make their experience better—whether that means using their preferred method of engagement or offering specific recommendations based on their purchase history.
To provide personalized customer service, companies must leverage their customer data to cater to each and every buyer. An open, flexible solution like Zendesk makes that possible—our software allows businesses to store and easily access customer information. In one unified workspace, agents have all the details they need right at their fingertips, enabling them to provide personalized service. They can call the customer by their first name and find the right solution for them more quickly, thanks to the ability to view the customer’s interaction history.
Along with offering personalization, be a strategic partner for your customers at every touchpoint instead of a one-time problem-solver.
- Anticipate customer needs.
- Have clear pricing information readily available.
- Offer queue callback so customers don’t have to wait on hold.
- Pre-fill their forms with the information you already know.
Anything you can do to make the customer experience as easy and efficient as possible will help to position you as a partner in their minds.
Also bear in mind that customer service excellence can only be accomplished if all teammates, regardless of position and role, think about customer needs. Encourage and empower your support team to collaborate with other departments across the company. CRM software can help facilitate this type of cross-functional collaboration.
2. Be transparent
Aside from communicating your policies and procedures, core values, and overall mission, you should also tout your company’s commitment to privacy and protection. Explain how customers’ private information will be protected, especially from threats like data breaches. This helps customers feel reassured.
Be upfront about how and why you capture customer data, too—both to build trust and comply with regulations. More specifically, make it clear from first contact how you plan to use their information. According to the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of customers are very concerned about the way companies use their data. Strengthen consumer trust by detailing the ways in which you’ll be using customer information to improve the overall experience.
When communicating with customers, you must also be honest about your company’s offerings and capabilities. Be forthcoming about potential product or service limitations, and when issues arise, always acknowledge them and address them head-on. Customers are more likely to be forgiving when they feel heard and validated, so make sure to train your team to be empathetic, kind, and direct.
3. Share customer feedback and reviews
Let’s face it—customer testimonials are often seen as more objective and trustworthy than a company’s marketing campaign. According to research from Wyzowl, nine out of 10 people trust what a customer says about a business more than what that business says about itself.
Add credibility to your company and cultivate customer trust by sharing reviews and testimonials. Let your audience know that you want to hear from them. Regularly ask for feedback through your customers’ preferred channels: send an outreach email or text, issue a survey, or create a poll on social media.
By listening to your customers’ opinions and suggestions, you’ll glean valuable insights to make improvements to existing products and services—or even create new ones. Asking for customer feedback also shows buyers you care about their opinions and not just their purchases. When you give customers the opportunity and outlet to share their thoughts, you help build customer trust by making them feel like valued partners.
When you receive positive customer comments and testimonials, make them visible to both your existing and potential customers:
- Include reviews and testimonials on your website—perhaps on a dedicated page.
- Post them across your social media platforms.
- Promote them in your company’s blog posts.
- Show them directly on product pages.
Remember, customer trust is earned when companies take customer feedback seriously and then act on it. If enough people acknowledge the same pain point or issue in their reviews, do something about it.
4. Connect with your customers
To maintain and strengthen customer trust, connect with your audience as you would with your friends or family: frequently and through a variety of channels. Build consumer trust by being reachable and reliable.
Be more accessible and accommodating than your competitors. Engage with your customers daily on the channels they use most often—whether that includes email, live chat, social media, or the comments section of your website. Connecting with customers on their preferred platforms allows you to provide a more personal, one-on-one experience for building emotional capital.
Make sure your sales and support teams speak in a singular “voice” when answering common customer questions, too. Establish brand guidelines and follow a style guide. If complex questions arise, teams should have access to the resources needed to provide thorough explanations and solutions. Inconsistency is a surefire way to make a bad impression and lose customers’ confidence.
You can also connect with consumers by creating branded online communities. Zendesk offers forum software that helps companies easily build a space where customers can go for information and support. They can develop friendships, share experiences, and learn from each other. The benefits of community forums extend to the business, too.
“Communities can increase brand loyalty, which can lead to increased customer happiness, retention, and lifetime value,” says Nicole Saunders, director of communities at Zendesk.
5. Invest in your employees
Studies have shown that a good employee experience and a good customer experience go hand in hand, particularly when it comes to those employees on the front lines. Customers can tell when someone isn't happy in their role, and that impacts your customers' experience with the company.
But according to our 2022 Trends Report, heavier workloads, more responsibility, inadequate training, and mixed signals from leaders have many agents feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated. In fact, only 15 percent of agents are extremely satisfied with their workloads, while a mere 20 percent report feeling the same way about the quality of training they receive. Taking all factors together, less than 30 percent feel empowered to do their jobs well. This presents an opportunity for companies to invest in their employees, which in turn means investing in their customers.
How can you build customer trust?
Building customer trust requires emotional intelligence.
Just like trust in any relationship, customer trust must be earned and protected—it also takes work to develop and maintain. A business must consistently show up for its customer base and exceed expectations.
You can talk the talk about your great products or services, but building customer trust means walking the walk. Deliver the exceptional products, services, and experiences you promise—people are paying attention.
Don’t wait until your brand reputation is damaged to begin building customer trust. Start seeking to understand your buyers as soon as you meet them, and continue nurturing those relationships throughout their customer lifecycle.
Prioritize an emotional connection over a transactional one to strengthen customer trust, and put your most empathetic foot forward. Customers increasingly want empathy from companies—in fact, 49 percent want to talk to an empathetic customer service agent when they reach out to a business.
To establish and deepen those connections with your customers, familiarize yourself with their needs, respect their opinions, and practice empathy. In the Age of the Customer, you can be sure people will appreciate your authentic and sensitive approach.