Communication – A Critical Ingredient to Build and Maintain Customer Trust

 

I feel very fortunate to be a consumer during a time when so much attention and energy is focused on removing friction along individual customer journeys. In the past year, many companies have stepped up efforts to meet customers where they are and satisfy their needs in new innovative ways; whether this means introducing new servicing options or advancing digital transformation efforts. While many consumer experiences tend to be positive, there are times when we are reminded that customer experience is fluid and vulnerable to situational events.

Regardless of industry, trust and communication consistently emerge as key drivers of overall customer experience. Yet, it is surprising how communication can quickly become a problem and ultimately one that erodes customer trust. Even when the news is not positive, it is always best to communicate rather than go silent.

Consider the following examples which illustrate the importance of communication on overall customer experience.

 

Personal Finances

Consolidation has been a prominent trend in the financial services industry. Many regional banks have formed partnerships to extend their footprint, expand their portfolio and increase their potential for long-term growth. This is a positive for the company but what does it mean for their long-term customers?

When my local bank underwent a merger several months ago, I wasn’t overly concerned. As a necessary course of action, a server migration was scheduled. The bank did a great job proactively communicating via email, direct mail and through their website weeks ahead of the event. Customers were aware that they would not be able to access funds for a 48-hour period and given ample time to plan.

When the bank came back online Monday morning, some account holders logged in to find inaccurate balances or missing accounts. Naturally, customers wanted answers and began calling. The volumes were too much for the system to handle. After waiting on hold for 60 minutes or more, calls were disconnected.

Feeling no other viable alternative, customers took to social media. They admonished the brand for not communicating, failing to be available for questions and rehashed old complaints related to past company centric rather than customer centric business practices.

While this event was unintentional and customers can forgive, trust was arguably damaged and long-term relationships ended due to the inability to reach a representative during a time of need.

 

Home Improvements

Nearly everyone has a story of a home improvement project gone awry. Timeline delays, continued demands for additional budget and unforeseen issues make for great viewing on HGTV, but when you are living through a renovation it is a completely different story. A few years ago, a friend of mine decided to undertake a kitchen remodel. In her expectation it was a pretty straight forward project with two components, new countertops and a tile floor.

As work began, an issue with the tile was discovered. Two different die lots had been delivered. The homeowner instructed the crew to hold off on installing the floor until she contacted the store to see if the issue could be corrected. In the meantime, the crew phoned their management who instructed them to progress with the project. In the end, there was not enough tile to complete the project in one die lot and there was not an option to order more as it had been discontinued.

Faced with no other option, the team had to tear up the floor, order new tile and start over. Ultimately the project took two additional weeks to complete and material costs nearly doubled. Ironically, had the team not began to glue the tile down when they did, the issue could have been resolved within the first hour of work. The store contact suggested integrating the two die lots in a way that is common practice and avoids perception of two different colors.

In the end, the home improvement store went the extra mile to make things right. Recognizing that the homeowner was not at fault for the receipt of two different die lots or the crew beginning installation ahead of her request, the store replaced the tile at no additional charge. Satisfied with the outcome, my friend said that she would recommend the home improvement store to others as they had kept her trust by staying with her to see the project to a successful end. Had communication been stronger between all parties involved, however, less time, pain and money would have been needed to achieve an acceptable outcome.

 

Car Repairs

No one likes to have their car in for repairs, but the process can be considerably less painful when the service center sets realistic expectations and follows up frequently. About a year ago one of our cars had an alignment issue. While driving to the dealership on a spare tire, a second tire blew. During the time that we waited for a tow truck, we contacted the dealership to get an idea of how long it would be until the car could be inspected.

To our delight, the closest dealership said they could look at it that afternoon. However, when we arrived, that afternoon had turned into three or four days into the future. Feeling mislead and frustrated, we began calling other locations in search of a shorter service window. With no better option found, we committed to our current location.

Over the next week, the service center called only one time to provide the results of the inspection and obtain permission to perform the necessary repairs. While it would have been frustrating to know that the car was still waiting to be inspected, a call each day with an update would have been greatly appreciated. As it was, we proactively reached out and left messages that were not returned.

Due to the lack of communication and a feeling of initially being misled, we now avoid taking our cars to our most geographically convenient location. Instead, we are willing to travel to our past service provider due to their differentiated service along with their proactive and reliable communication.

 

Your Organization’s Communication Style

Is your organization’s communication style living up to your customers’ expectations and instilling trust? ENGINE partners with organizations to identify the key drivers of overall customer experience including communication and trust. Our work proactively uncovers areas of opportunity among the aspects of experience that matter most to your unique customer population. We are here to help you improve customer connections and build trust through improved communication practices and materials.

 

Written by Nicole Garberg, VP at ENGINE Insights. 

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