3 Strategies for Building Consumer Trust (And What to Do if You’ve Lost It)

“Trust us.”

It’s often the unspoken basis and desired outcome of every brand’s advertising and messaging across many industries. When you ask people for their money, their time, their engagement and their advocacy, you are asking them to trust that you (and the brand you represent) will live up to the expectations you set. Every interaction is an opportunity for brands to build trust or break it—and it all comes down to the experience delivered.

Learn More: Leading with Brand: 3 ways brand marketing can create more human health care experiences

What do 15,000 people across the country have to say about trust? In a recent national consumer study led by Monigle, we asked people to talk about trust, and what brands can do to build it. Through their stories, we narrowed in on the top three strategies brands must implement to establish—and maintain—trust:

 

1. Keep your promises

“Brands can get me to trust them by being honest and ethical in their business practices, by delivering the goods or services as advertised, and by being open.” – Male consumer, Northeastern U.S.

Health care worker being kind to lady

Trust between a brand and its consumers isn’t all that different than any other relationship: people expect you to stick to your word and do what you say you will. Many people emphasized that they place trust in brands that provide exactly what they claim to deliver and demonstrate in action the values they profess to stand by. If product, service and experience live up to what is promised, it creates a sense of transparency and honesty that is essential to building and maintaining trust.

Think about the story your organization is telling. Do you message about your brand values and commitments? And if so, do those claims live up to the way your brand behaves in physical, digital and human experiences? Remember that people don’t expect perfection—but they do expect candor about what you’re working toward.

 

 2. Deliver consistent experiences

“A brand you can trust is one where you receive a consistent experience, every time.” – Male consumer, Southern U.S.

Smiling healthcare worker

When it comes to brand experiences (and life in general), most people don’t like surprises. Instead, they appreciate the confidence that comes from knowing exactly what to expect, with many expressing higher levels of trust for brands that deliver reliable, consistent experiences time and time again.

This desire for consistency, and the comfort that stems from it, is an important consideration when evaluating the different touchpoints across the diverse experiences that you are delivering. Every brand element—from design and voice to customer service and culture to the words that your team members use—should reinforce a consistent identity and expression, setting the tone for the kind of experiences consumers can expect from every interaction with you. This is a big ask, and it requires that you take a macro view of the journeys of your audiences and assess what’s working and what’s not working on an ongoing basis.

 

3. Put people first, always

 “Patience with the client and having my best interest in mind [develops trust]. If I need help with an issue, I expect the employees to try and do everything in their power to be helpful to my needs.” – Female consumer, Northeastern U.S.

Health care explaining information

Consumers trust brands that demonstrate they care more about the people they serve than the profit they stand to make. For many, this is established when brands express that they have the peoples’ best interest at heart, provide excellent customer service, and quickly respond to any issues that may arise.

This one is pretty simple: treat people like human beings. So often, we get distracted from the simple power of this mandate. Make sure the culture, service expectations and overall experience at your organization are designed with peoples’ interests in mind—and make sure your employees feel empowered to act accordingly.

Learn More: Leading with Brand: 3 ways brand marketing can address health care’s cost problem

In a perfect world…

In a perfect world, your brand would do all three of these things exceptionally (and relentlessly)—and nothing would ever occur to disrupt the trust you have built with people. However, we know reality is not so simple.

In our research, we uncovered the top 5 reasons brands lose trust with consumers:

      1. Failing to live up to claims and promises
      2. Inconsistent experiences or products
      3. Poor customer service
      4. The appearance that the brand is not being transparent or ethical (hidden costs, hidden agendas, hidden ingredients)
      5. Large offenses (data breaches, environmental disasters, major scandals)

Do you face any of these challenges in your day-to-day? To win trust back, you must address and demonstrate how you plan to rectify the problem. On a personal level, it comes down to service: people want their problems addressed empathetically and efficiently. This is particularly important in high-stakes industries such as healthcare, financial services, and other potentially emotion-packed categories. For many consumers, a second chance at trust often requires overcompensation for the perceived wrong in order to fully restore their opinions of you—and that can take some time.

“It’s hard for me to trust brands again. They’re going to have to show me OVER TIME that they have changed and rectified whatever caused me to lose trust in them in the first place.” – Female consumer, Midwestern U.S.

At the end of the day, it’s easier to maintain trust than repair it.

Focus on the three trust-building strategies we addressed above:

      1. Keep your promises
      2. Deliver consistent experiences
      3. Put people first

When brands treat their audience right, it pays off in spades.

We love to talk brand, health care marketing, and especially ways in which we can improve experiences for our consumers and our client’s consumers. Does this article ring true to you? What did we miss? Engage us on social or reach out to us directly here to continue the discussion.