Imagine for a moment you run a package delivery business. Now picture what the most effortless customer experience might look like.
I’m willing to guess your vision includes a simple, mobile friendly online system for customers to schedule pickup, track delivery, and pay. Just push a button. Consider it done.
I’m also willing to guess your vision doesn’t include the customer inspecting every inch of your delivery van, then insisting to drive it. That’s your job, right?!
Yet this is what happens when trust is lacking in a business relationship. If your customers do not trust you, their experience will be far from effortless.
The Importance of Reducing Customer Effort
Over the past several years, a growing number of organizations have gone through the exercise above. They’ve pictured what the most effortless customer experience looks like, mapped out their end-to-end current customer journeys and made changes to streamline those journeys.
And rightly so. The importance of minimizing customer effort has been highlighted by research by CEB and others which ties lower levels of customer effort with higher levels of intent to repurchase, spend more, and spread positive word of mouth.
Streamlining is Necessary, but Not Sufficient
While customer journey streamlining is absolutely necessary to deliver effortless experiences, this alone is not sufficient. Customers must also trust you.
As we saw in our package delivery scenario, if your customers lack trust they will add effort to their own journeys!
- If customers do not trust your sales and marketing claims, they’ll spend extra effort checking references and reviews before they buy.
- If they do not fully trust that you have the competence to deliver quality results, they will request extended trials and pilot projects before they deploy your solution.
- And if they do not trust your character, they will demand high levels of oversight and control over your product, service and support activities (if they do business with you at all).
Trust Makes Effortless Experiences Possible
In contrast, as you build trust with a customer the level of effort required to do business with them drops for both of you.
Rather than spending their time and yours double checking your every move, a customer who trusts you will focus more of their time collaborating with you. In turn, your organization will spend more time delivering results and less time fielding questions. Less effort, more results.
Also, trust-related efficiency gives your organization a durable competitive advantage. While effort-reducing technology and process measures can be copied by your competitors, trust cannot be copied. It is unique to your customer’s relationship with your organization.
To Build Trust, Work on Character and Competence
So how do we build trust with customers? First, becoming trustworthy is a way of doing business; it is not an event, nor a quick-hit initiative. Trust must be earned over time by consistently demonstrating both character and competence.
- Character comprises the qualities that likely first come to mind when you hear the word, “trust”. Being transparent, honest, keeping your word, not taking short cuts, and acting in the best interest of your customers. The more customers trust your character, the more likely they’ll be inclined to do business with you; conversely, if customers don’t trust your character, they’ll look for reasons to not do business with you. It’s a universal must-have, not a nice-to-have.
- Competence is the answer to the customer’s question: can I trust this company to do the job right? A company of the highest character may be admired, but unless it also competent, customers will not entrust it with their business, especially mission critical work.
Put it into Practice
If your company does not already measure and manage customer trust, consider doing so, especially if you are working to reduce customer effort. Adding customer trust into your existing market research, customer feedback, and management systems is relatively straightforward.
Of course, the more difficult step is to act on what you learn. Strengthening your organization’s character and competence to earn more trust is not easy and takes time. But the payoff is powerful: trust makes it possible to deliver truly effortless customer experiences and in turn, build more loyal customer relationships.