Trust = Credibility + Empathy
Credibility is the customer’s logical assessment of a brand’s capability and reliability for delivering what is needed. Empathy is the emotional connection that enables associates to establish a high level of rapport with customers by understanding the emotional component of their needs and expectations.
Our research shows that customer perceptions of trust are determined by four supporting concepts; the first two address empathy and the last two address credibility.
- Commonality: Refers to the customer’s perception that you both hold things in common—interests, beliefs, and values.
- Intent: An open declaration of your interest in the customer’s success and well-being.
- Propriety: Expectations of business customs and the ability and willingness to meet the customer’s behaviors.
- Competence: The perception you create in the customer’s mind that you have the capability and experience to help solve the business problem.
In each interaction with each buying channel, customers are forming and re-forming their assessment of trust, perceived value, and willingness to do business with an organization’s brand.
In the fast-moving world of retail, the requirement that trust be at the heart of every customer interaction doesn’t vary by channel or trend.
Many retailers tend to focus on and develop the “back wheel” or “hard skills” of the credibility side of the equation at the expense of the “front wheel” or interpersonal skills of the empathy side of the equation. Back wheel competence in operational and merchandising capabilities is necessary but insufficient to reliably cause customer trust to grow.
What It Takes
Aiming every customer interaction at building trust requires more than customer service charm school. It takes vision, widespread commitment, and alignment within the entire retail organization.
- Be the source of a compelling vision for excellence all across the customer experience
- Develop strategy that funds and aligns operations with serving the customer experience
- Provide consistent communication
- Hold managers accountable for performance
- Manage to specific performance benchmarks that support excellence in the customer experience
- Provide communication, training, staffing, and operational support
- Evaluate, coach, and support associate performance across the retail organization
- Demonstrate buy-in to the strategic vision
- Acquire and practice new skills
- Demonstrate commitment to improving individual performance
- Understand their role in producing or enhancing customer trust at every interaction