Cloud, social and mobile technology have radically disrupted the way organizations engage with customers by allowing for stronger, more intimate interactions. And for the innovative companies driving this type of digital disruption, building trust is the key to reaping the benefits that come from this new level of intimacy.
Customer Relationships Depend on Trust
As is the case with any relationship, your organization’s ability to effectively engage with customers hinges on trust. In today’s world, where digital channels reign supreme, this trust applies to customers accepting that any given channel (be it a mobile app, a social network, an online community, a phone conversation, etc.) is a secure place to communicate, that your company will be able to keep any communications private and that your company isn’t abusing or overreaching when it comes to accessing personal information.
Everyone is Responsible for Building Customer Trust
In today’s cloud-driven engagement environment, trust is an integral part of the user experience. As such, the responsibility for building it extends far beyond the technology professionals who develop and maintain these engagement channels. Every team and department that touches an engagement stream needs a shared understanding of the key elements that contribute to user trust. It’s a critical component in balancing the innovation that comes with exploring new platforms and the security required by customers.
Innovation and Trust Create a Push-and-Pull Relationship
While rapid innovation can make it more difficult to build trust as customers might be wary of new channels, slowing down is not always an option. On the other hand, those same customers don’t want a stagnate experience. However, moving forward without customer trust isn’t an option either. This dynamic creates an interesting push-and-pull relationship.
One area in particular where we’re seeing this tug-of-war play out today is in the retail industry. According to recent research from Accenture, while U.S. shoppers do want a personalized experience, complete with real-time promotions and offers, they’re reluctant to share certain types of information (such as location and browsing history) that are often required to create a truly personalized experience.
4 Tips for Building Trust While Continuously Innovating
If building trust while innovating is a something of a struggle, how can you find the right balance? The following four points are a good place to start as you develop new engagement channels and evaluate new functionality or use cases for existing channels:
Don’t Boil the Ocean
Too frequently, companies will fall into the trap of asking for every piece of information possible. However, it’s important to step back and think about the ramifications of and actual need for what you’re asking. For example, does your mobile application really need full access to a customer’s location or address book? Does your online chat capability really need a customer’s address and phone number? All of this is incredibly personal and sensitive data, and asking for access to it can give the wrong first impression. In any situation, trust is something that’s developed over time but can be easily lost in an instant.
In some cases, you might find that you really do need access to personal data like a customer’s email address or credit card number. When that happens, it’s important to clearly communicate to customers what data you need to access, why you need that access and how you’ll use it and the information that comes from it. For example, if you want people to join your online community through their Facebook accounts, you need to explain what that means (i.e., will it allow your company to then send invites, posts and messages to other people?). It’s important to go the extra mile by explaining the scope and usage of access in plain English and by providing an option to cancel that access at any time.
Make Sharing Worthwhile
Again, while you don’t want to overreach when it comes to collecting data from customers, in many cases you will need that data to properly engage with users and fully solve their problems or provide added value. When that happens, though, you need to make sure that you use the information customers share in a manner that provides genuine value for them in return. At the end of the day, people will weigh what they want to give in terms of what they’ll get in return.
Become an Active Participant
Traditional approaches to engagement get flipped on their heads when it comes to new digital channels like social, mobile and communities. Today, customers expect engagement to be a two-way street and they expect your company to be an active engager. For example, you might consider thoughtfully replying to comments in your community or on your social profile. Doing so can help you better understand user sentiment and create a responsive support system on which customers know they can rely. As a result, this type of participation can help further both innovation (by giving you direct access to a feedback loop) and trust (by demonstrating your support and transparency to customers).
Remember: Innovation Without Trust Won’t Go Very Far
Innovation is critical to staying competitive, especially in the current cloud-based, digital landscape. But this innovation means nothing if it causes you to lose the trust of your customers. As a result, you need to balance these two factors so that they move forward hand-in-hand.