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Trust is top of mind for consumers these days. Due to the Facebook data breach that occurred last year, which enabled Cambridge Analytica to access information on 87 million Facebook users without their consent, fewer consumers are willing to share their data with brands. On top of this, data privacy regulations, already enacted in the EU and in California, pose a major concern for companies.
Joelle Kaufman, CMO of Dynamic Signal, a leader in Employee Communication and Engagement Platforms, weighs in on the issue.
“This should keep people up at night, the complete erosion of trust in institutions,” she says. “It’s banks, it’s insurance companies, it’s health care, it’s the government. People are wondering if they can trust brands, if the quality of their products is what they say it is. There are fake reviews on Amazon. People are saying they just can’t trust anymore.”
However, she believes, with some work, trust can be regained. “You can’t advertise your way to trust. Nor can you rebuild trust quickly, so you really have a conundrum. The fix is, people trust people. People trust people they know. So, if you can build trust with your employees, and through them show trustworthy behavior, that will translate to customers through a halo effect. For example, if someone works at a company, and a customer trusts that employee, they’ll begin to trust the company. There’s no way to deliver a great customer experience if you’re not delivering a great employee experience.”
Kaufman believes that investing in employees to rebuild trust must be authentic, though. “Authenticity doesn’t mean saying, ‘Hey guys, we screwed up, and now we need you to talk to your friends about our company.’ It means acting with integrity and communicating transparently with the customer in the way they want to be communicated with. It’s not about you. It’s about them.”
Consumer concern over trust conflicts with the desire for personalized customer experiences, which require more data, not less. Many companies have focused on technological innovation to pick up the slack. Again, though, Kaufman believes that personalization can be improved by investing in employees.
“Technology is about efficiency,” she says. “Why do we have call trees? You know, press one for this, press two for this, and so on. That’s not so that you can have the best customer service experience; it’s so that you can more efficiently route the customer to the right person. Now, if that experience is relatively quick, and the customer is routed to the correct person, and that person genuinely helps the customer, and that person is friendly, that improves customer experience.”
She says that measurement data backs her up. “So, how do I identify the exact contribution of one piece to everything? Well, with attribution. It’s a multi-variable equation. She who makes the formula sets what the attribution’s going to be. But there’s no exact attribution. You can probably get close, though. For example, for every one percent increase in employee satisfaction, you go up 0.6 percent in revenue. There are massive amounts of research that demonstrate, if you invest in your employees, you outperform in stock price, you outperform in revenue, because you are serving your customers better.”
She cites Wawa, an East Coast convenience store chain, as evidence. “What’s happening at Wawa is that they’re measuring everything that they’re doing so they can improve it, and employees love it. It’s helping the chief communication officer reinforce the value of authentic communication. What I’m seeing there is a company that is succeeding financially, it’s succeeding in the recruiting wars, it is succeeding in customer experience, because of their investment in their culture and their people.”
There’s no question that the commercial environment that brands currently face is rough. In addition to data breaches, data compliance regulations, and trust erosion, brands need to constantly innovate so that they can adapt to technology that changes how consumers wish to communicate. Because of this, even if Kaufman’s advice seems counterintuitive, brands might benefit from paying attention.
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