Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Trust Me .....

This is a Guest Post from Martin Lee, Partner, Acacia Avenue, a leading Market Research company with a different approach to discovering how brands interact with their customers.
Martin Lee and Wendy Gordon (co-founder) are very experienced researchers whose clients include  Barclays, eBay and PayPal, BP, EDF Energy and many others. 
I'm particularly interested in their work on 'trust'. As regular readers will know, I believe strongly that putting customers/users at the centre of product development and service delivery is a powerful approach to building strong brands.
The question of trust has always been at the heart of commerce on the web. Will the goods I'm ordering live up to the great photography? Will they delivered on time? or at all? Are my credit card details safe?
Funny how one thinks less about these things when ordering from John Lewis, Amazon, ASOS - these brands have earned the trust.

“Trust me.”  The two least trustworthy words you can hear somebody say.  But why?

Nearly all our clients have become absorbed with the issue of brand trust recently, to the point where it’s often become a dedicated project brief in its own right.  It’s not surprising.  Look at what’s happening: the banking crisis; MPs’ expenses and Catholic Church sex scandals.  All erode trust in public institutions.

As we listen to the public talk about trust, we’re hearing emphatic messages, and it turns out that how trust operates with brands is very similar to how it operates with people.  The most important thing to emerge is the distinction between trust and trustworthiness.  A person (or brand) can come across as trustworthy, based on what you see of them from remote observation or hearsay.  But trust itself only happens when you get to know that person or brand.  And crucially, trust is only conferred upon you or your brand by the person who chooses to trust.  This is why “trust me” is such a bad thing to say.  We all recoil from this, and effectively say, “I’ll be the judge of that.”

I’ve highlighted the word ‘chooses’ deliberately.  The other vital thing we’ve learnt about trust from consumers is that trust operates in environments where people have a choice.  I’ll maybe trust BA more than Virgin, or Barclays more than RBS, for my own reasons.  But the choice to trust involves risk.  In choosing your brand, I’m turning away from alternatives.  
And here is the nub of it.  What if the trust turns out to be misplaced (e.g. over charging or poor service)?  The loss of trust that follows is not just about that experience, but makes me feel bad about myself as well – I could have made a better choice.  This is why it’s so important not to betray customers’ trust and why lost trust is so hard to win back.  You’re not just letting them down; you’ve made them let themselves down.  And that’s a lot harder to recover from.

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