This growing lack of trust can have serious consequences as we try to reverse the economic meltdown as a result of the global pandemic and bring about positive change and growth in what many are calling the "new normal."
Whom Do We Trust?
The future in business is all about relationships, and all relationships need trust to survive. The more trust you have with a business, the more powerful the relationship with customers, while the more untrustworthy a business is, the weaker the relationship.
The post-pandemic "new normal" is so much more than just PPE and social distancing protocol. In reality, everyone is back to a primitive "square one" of sorts. With so many opinions and facts floating around social media, confusion as to how to behave now and in the immediate future after a pandemic runs rampant, and consumers' trust is even more difficult to gain back than ever before.
So, whom do we trust, both as businesses and consumers, how is trust earned by a business in the "new normal?"
The Three Values of Trust
In business, trust is something you must earn. You earn trust by displaying three universal values: honesty, integrity, and delivering on promises. In fact, no matter where you travel around the world, and regardless of religion or culture, those three values are the same.
Because people worldwide place such a high emphasis on trust, many companies cite "trust" in their list of organizational values. By nature, most people are indeed trusting of others. But because trust is assumed, many companies have a tendency to implement strategies that undermine trust. They fail to make trust a conscious part of their strategy when instead, trust stays in the back of their mind.
For example, call your cable television provider today and tell them you're going to cancel your service and go with a streaming service, such as YouTube TV or Hulu TV. What is likely to occur is that, in order to retain your account, they'll offer you a lower rate.
Does this increase your trust in them and prompt you to keep cable? In reality, you'll likely feel that you've been getting ripped off for years and should have gotten that lower price all along as a valued customer. Policies such as slashing prices to bribe customers to stay with something they are dissatisfied with build a foundation of distrust between the customer and the company.
Now add in potential financial hardships of customers due to COVID-19, and you have the potential for a completely decimated relationship. Yet despite their actions, companies that violate trust are simply not considering trust when they lay out a course of action to navigate the new wants and needs of their customers in the post-pandemic world.
In order to foster trust in your organization going forward, consider these strategies.
Never Assume Trust
Whenever you're bringing about any change, either internally or externally, create a "trust gauge." On the far left side of the gauge is no trust, and on the far right side is full trust. Before you implement any change, determine where the trust is between the consumer and your company on that meter. Before implementing the change, decide whether you think trust will go down, stay the same, or increase.
If you believe trust will go down, implement change in a different way than you've outlined, and if anyone on your team can come up with a way to get the trust meter to increase when implementing the change, reward that person openly to foster company-wide behavior.
Increased Value Rewards Loyalty
As you decide what policies and changes your company will implement, think of adding value rather than giving something away for free.
For example, during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, in-person businesses deemed nonessential were required to close nationwide. Grocery stores were allowed to stay open, though many were late to the concepts of safety protocols that we see today, such as plastic shields at the checkout counters or mask mandates.
In many cases, this broke the trust of several concerned customers who chose to shop at grocery stores that took safety more seriously, such as streamlining curbside pickup to prevent excessive customers entering the store, though with continued charges for those services.
A better strategy for all would be to lift the fee for curbside pickup, limit the number of in-person shoppers, and have staff assigned to pulling the excessive curbside orders together every day. In a global pandemic, the primary value is found in safety, and lifted costs are secondary.
When you think in terms of rewarding loyalty with more value rather than a lower price, people feel that the company is giving them a genuine "thank you." They feel appreciated, which is something everyone yearns for, and they will want to keep doing business with you.
If you pinpoint what your customers perceive as added value and resist assuming that trust is a given with any change you make, your organization will build a new level of trust via the new wants and needs of customers in this post-pandemic world.
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