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Trust is Built Little by Little

AcxiomMarch 16, 2015

There are a handful of brands to which I am loyal. What did these brands do to gain my trust at such a high level? Was it the same across all these brands? Was it something unique for each brand?

After thinking through my own answers I bombarded friends and colleagues with the same questions. I can summarize most of the responses with this simple phrase – building brand trust is gained through a series of small actions. Here are a few small actions to consider when building your brand trust:

Show Your True Colors (at all times)

The brands to which I am most loyal invoke the same warm, fuzzy (or cool, or funky) feelings whether I’m dealing with them online, over the phone, in print or in person. With so many different options for consumers to interact with brands, extra care and coordination is required across the organization to ensure a consistent brand experience.

Target is the first brand that comes to mind as a leader in this area. This brand cheers me up. Television commercials are fun and peppy. That same cheerful vibe is delivered via the weekly ad, when shopping online and when visiting a store. The ads and offers they deliver are relevant to my needs.

The stores are bright and cheery. The layouts are consistent and intuitive which means I can relax and trust that I will be able to find what I need without running across the store multiple times. I also do not have to clip coupons as they are stored in my phone, making additional savings easier than ever.

Target would not be able to sustain that cheerful vibe without making it a priority for its employees. For the most part, Target employees are pleasant and helpful whether they are at the service desk, walking the floor or checking out customers.

Of course everyone has off days. Target has earned my trust by consistently making deposits into my emotional bank account to more than cover the occasional debit.

Make Tough Decisions (no matter the cost)

I love it when brands make decisions that seem counter-intuitive to the bottom line in order to stay true to their brand values. It’s gutsy and it shows their commitment to their brand.

A recent example of this is the big decision CVS made to pull tobacco products from all its stores. CEO Larry Merlo says, “The contradiction of selling tobacco was becoming a growing obstacle to playing a bigger role in health care delivery.” This decision is a big risk from a financial perspective as CVS attributes about $1.5 to $2 billion in annual sales to tobacco and related products. It’s an even bigger statement to their commitment to consumer health improvement. To further emphasize this commitment, they will offer smoking cessation education and support programs.

I applaud this move.

Are big decisions like this going to be received positively by everyone? Absolutely not. Often they can be polarizing – especially if it is around a sensitive topic. Even if I do not agree with the specific value on which a decision was based by a brand, I can trust who they are and feel good about making the decision to engage or not.

We’re All Human (deal with it)

Because brands are made by humans, not every single interaction will be perfect – that’s unrealistic. Consumers expect brands to be honest, to own up to mistakes and to fix things that go wrong.  These not-so-perfect moments offer brands an additional opportunity to build trust in how they respond.

Last Christmas I ordered several gifts online to be picked up at a local store. This was the first time I had tried this method of delivery. When I got to the store a comedy of errors ensued. After waiting as patiently as possible in line for half an hour and watching no less than seven employees fumble the experience of the customers ahead of me, I finally made it to the counter to pick up my items. Fifteen minutes, three employees and one mix-up later, I finally had my products in hand. I was feeling very frustrated and ready to leave the store never to return.

I had one more item to purchase and decided to go ahead and purchase it while I was there. I was disgruntled but trying to be polite to the young man checking me out. I shared a bit of my frustrating experience with him. He scanned my item, hit a few extra buttons on the register and announced my total – it was $10 less than it should be. I didn’t realize he was a department manager. He had a huge smile on his face and said he hoped that would cover some of the frustration I experienced in the other department.

It did.

Don’t get me wrong; I won’t make the mistake of picking up in store again. But I did leave that day with a smile on my face knowing that good customer service still exists and that I can continue to feel good about doing business with this particular brand.

Putting it All Together

These are a few of the small actions that have led to big trust building moments for some of the brands in which I am most loyal. Nothing fancy. No grand gestures. Nothing new. Looking back at the list, these are just good, old-fashioned tips for winning friends – let your true personality shine, be authentic and focus on meeting the needs of the other person.