Five Ways to Build Trust Among Consumers

By: Shayna Polly

The Edelman Trust Barometer is the largest global survey on trust in the media, government, NGOs, and business. This year’s shows that trust is at an all-time low across the board. How do we get people to trust us? There is no exact formula, but here are a few tips that should help.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION.
Whenever speaking or releasing any kind of content, a PR professional should always be sure that what is being communicated is accurate. Misinterpretation is inevitable, but it is best to be sure the speech is clear with as little room for speculation as possible. Your message should be consistent throughout the corporation. The last thing you want is to seem condescending to your audience. While usually unintentional, the use of jargon can seem intimidating to many people. When addressing mass numbers of people, the plainer you speak the better. This does not mean that speech or writing cannot be eloquent or well- worded. This simply means to avoid language your audience won’t understand.. How is one supposed to communicate effectively if the audience does not understand half of the words they are using?

BE AUTHENTIC.
Everything you do should have meaning and sincerity. This should be thought out through several strategic planning methods. These plans are flexible as things do arise but should still cohere to one solitary message or meaning. For example, an apology is a typical course of action after a problem arises – but consumers can tell when an apology is not sincere. Even if viewers cannot credit this feeling to a specific action or sentence, they identify a gut feeling when a talking head is being insensitive. Being that there is already a trust gap between corporations and the public, consumers are already looking for instances to confirm what they already believe. This is what’s called confirmation bias. The same way that someone who believes the earth is flat will seek out facts to confirm this and ignore facts that dispute.

INSTILL ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES.
Customers become very frustrated when a business breaks a promise. If it is said that customers will be reimbursed; reimburse them. It is unfortunate that this has to be said, but this is a common trend among corporations, especially big ones. This also says a lot about a company’s values. These values should be communicated from the time an employee is hired; throughout the entire time they are with an organization. For example, and airline passenger’s flight is canceled and in order to accommodate the airline offers another flight free of charge. The passenger thinks to themselves “awesome, I’ll just use the free flight to fly home for the holidays.” When the consumer goes to redeem this offer, however, they are informed that the offer was only redeemable for 30 days after the canceled flight. While this might have been mentioned before, a lot of time it is in small subtext and may not be verbally mentioned at all. This sends the message that the airline is simply trying to get out of losing more money. It is understandable that the airline needs to make money, but this should not come at the expense of its customers, especially loyal ones.

TRANSPARENCY.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Of course, this does not mean that every aspect of business needs to be disclosed, but it is best to uphold as much transparency as possible. Public relations is all about the information. Consumers are much more at ease when they have and understand as much information as you can possibly give.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PUBLIC.

Do everything in your power to ensure the comfort and happiness of customers. “The customer is always right” is a very popular saying, and while it may not always be true, customer service should forever be doing their best to make the consumer comfortable. This includes employee training and should be instilled in everyone associated with the company. A good organization should make sure that every employee, no matter how little, gets consistent training on both customer service and the overall messaging of the company. Don’t forget, your employees are your first, most important public. They need to be happy as they reflect the values of the organization. For example, if the company donates to an advocate for wheelchair accessibility, but an employee is seen being less than accommodating to a customer in a wheelchair, that could be a very bad story being shared all over the press and social media, and these days, things like that take flight quickly. After all, that is where all the revenue comes from. Happy customers = $$$.

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