Do you trust your friends? Your colleagues? Your mum? That’s probably why you get along with them as well as you do – or – if you don’t trust them – the reason you don’t get along.
But what about your customers? Do you trust them and how much trust do they actually place in you? Being seen as trustworthy has become a much bigger consideration for all companies, and, along with politicians, the media and now the police, financial services are sitting in the glare of the public’s ‘trust spotlight’ more than at any other time in modern history.
This is because, at the end of the day, financial services are supposed to know more than most industries about their customers’ needs, and the placing of your financial future into somebody else’s hands is surely one of the biggest leaps of faith a consumer can make. When that trust breaks down…well, we all know what happened during the expenses, phone-hacking and banking crises.
But trust between financial services providers and their clients is not a one way thing.
Of course it is important to offer quality customer service and relevant products to maintain a good relationship, but it is also important to earn a customer’s respect – and to receive it you need to give it. The ultimate demonstration of the faith you have in your customers is to actually pass the reins of business decision-making to them by asking “what do you want from this service?” and then trust their judgement by providing whatever it is they have asked for.
Recently, the social media space has made this a whole lot easier for firms, allowing instant dialogue to take place between staff and clients and, of course, potential clients. Online (and public) feedback, website polls and forum discussions can all reveal the true thoughts and wants of the public, because online is a wider and more accessible communication channel than most.
Rather than just listening to this feedback however, companies are realising customers are trustworthy enough to participate in actual business strategies. Rather than just listening to feedback, firms are beginning to ask for it and implementing the suggestions they receive.
On the global stage, Starbucks has a website dedicated to just this concept. Mystarbucksidea.com is dedicated to the submission and rating of customer suggestions. The most popular ideas, from a new flavour of frappuccino to alternative loyalty point schemes, are considered and rated by fellow visitors to the website. The most highly rated ideas are then taken into account by Starbucks developers who put the workable suggestions into production.
This is a great case study of the mutual benefits of a trusting relationship, but it’s not just the multinationals cottoning on the gains to be had.
On a much more local business level – in my Auld Reekie hometown to be precise – The Hive is an independent nightclub and bar which uses its Facebook page to great effect to garner the exact theme nights, drinks lists and even decor their clientele wish to see and experience. Through the use of discussion boards and message streams, The Hive lays bare the ways in which small firms can build a Facebook community that customers feel they can partly run.
The trick for financial services firms is to grasp this technique and make it their own. This is what Zopa, the ‘real people’ P2P loan provider did to great effect through its successful development of an online community spirit. By bringing customers closer to them and allowing them to act as moderators on Zopa forums, customers became brand ambassadors and spread the word of their positive experiences – and we all know people highly trust recommendations from their peers.
As trust is such a key aspect of a company’s relationship with its customers, it is worth nurturing. Just as we all probably need to check in with that friend we have been meaning to ring – firms need to make sure they do the same with their customers to keep trust fresh.