Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Perhaps you’ve heard rumors about Apple wanting to bring an “Apple car,” to the market. While the vehicle is just hypothetical, many consumers are already excited to get behind the wheel. They’ve already bought into the concept based on little more than the assumption that if the famous Apple logo will be branded on the car, it must be good.
What would drive someone to want a car created by a manufacturer known for phones and laptops? The answer is trust, and this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Apple.
When a business has the trust of consumers, its market value is amplified by an impressive 4X. Trust has two components: competence and intention. In the case of Apple, consumers believe the brand is highly capable of building safe, functional and tech-forward cars. With consumer trust, you can grow your business beyond imagination. Yet without trust, you’ll never get off the ground.
A recent survey found that 77% of U.S. respondents are increasingly skeptical of brands. Getting through to consumers is harder than ever. So, how do you build trust?
At a recent Verbit board meeting, we discussed the importance of further building on consumer trust and our reputation as a reliable partner. Here are five areas we’re tackling. Entrepreneurs can consider them to fuel a reputation for being incredibly reliable, helping to drive customer trust and loyalty.
1. Prioritize customer feedback
Up to 98% of customers read online reviews. If your customers are reading reviews of your business on G2 and the like, you can’t afford to ignore them. You must prioritize the input of customers and find ways to act on it.
Read what your customers are saying online and on social. Have your product team reach out and interview them. Offer incentives to get their feedback because it really is that valuable. If your customers know that you’re listening and that you value them, they’ll be more likely to trust your brand.
2. Invest deeply in your product and R&D
Developing a strong product or offering is how you show competence — one of the pillars of trust. To deepen your product’s value, you must invest in expert research and development. Having team members in research roles that commit to rigorous testing, quality assurance and an understanding of the market is key.
Large companies like Amazon and Alphabet understand the need to keep developing, which is why they each lead the way in R&D investments with annual expenditures in the tens of billions. In fact, studies project that the compound annual growth rate for expenditures in engineering and R&D will be 10% through 2026.
Additionally, while it might be tempting to jump into the market, you must take the time to get your product right. Just look at Friendster, the social media network that predated Facebook but was ultimately too slow and unscalable for users, leaving the wide door open for competition. Letting pressure from board members, price advantages or sheer excitement cause you to launch before achieving the quality your customers deserve is a recipe for regret.
3. Offer reliable customer service
Chatbots have a role to play in gathering information, answering simple FAQs or directing people to the right team for help. However, up to 72% of people stated their interactions with chatbots were a complete waste of time, and 80% said their interaction with bots increased their frustration.
If you want people to trust your brand, you don’t want them to find interacting with it frustrating. Making it possible to contact a knowledgeable person within your company goes a long way toward signaling to your customers that you’re reliable and want their interactions with your business to be straightforward and easy.
At Verbit, we offer dedicated support and assign a vertical expert to each customer. This support opens the door for consistent feedback and quick troubleshooting, which our customers value over competitors on the market who automate every interaction. We’ve not only built strong relationships with our customers as a result, but uncovered ideas for new features and add-ons to build and offer them based on their feedback.
4. Be transparent and deliver on your promises
There’s no quicker way to damage trust in your brand than making customers feel that you misled them. Being truly honest with customers is most challenging when something goes wrong. However, owning up to mistakes and offering a genuine mea culpa can improve your brand image. One study found that people view companies that blame internal factors for their mistakes more favorably than those that blame others. A follow-up to that study showed that companies that take responsibility for their mistakes also perform better financially.
When it comes to managing a corporate reputation, being willing to say “I’m sorry” is a powerful thing. By taking accountability, the business demonstrates that it’s in control of the situation and can put remedies in place. Adopting this mentality of transparency boosts trust in your brand, which translates into better overall performance.
5. Show how and why you care
The second component of trust is intention. Consumers want to know that brands are mission-led, not just profit-centered. Around 75% report that they’ve cut ties with a brand over a conflict in values.
While you have to build a business around products that work well — in our case, helping businesses with accessibility initiatives — aim to also hire people who aren’t just focused on developing and selling. Our team at Verbit lives by the value of “do good” and does so by guiding our customers with practical advice to help them become more inclusive. Committing ourselves to not just selling, but to our customers’ success has allowed us to build trust in our offerings, but also as reliable, knowledgeable individuals who are committed to the greater cause.
In today’s often skeptical business landscape, building trust means investing in more market research. It means heeding customer feedback. It means being transparent and showcasing genuine care. Fostering trust is the key driver in building real customer loyalty.