Building, maintaining, and reassuring consumer brand trust 21 June 2021

Dr. Jacqueline Boysselle, Head of the Teaching & Research Marketing Department at Montpellier Business School, describes how companies can excel in the all-important metric: trust. 
In such a competitive market, consumer brand loyalty is one of the most important challenges for companies. To achieve this objective, the company must establish a valuable relationship with their consumers, and one of the key elements of this relationship is trust. Trust can be defined as "the consumer's belief that a brand will act in the best interest for their consumers and fulfill its engagements". Through trust, the brand will be able to secure a loyal customer base over the long term. A large body of research has shown that trust is composed of three main elements: credibility, integrity, and benevolence.

What do each of these elements consist of?

1 - Credibility: is the brand's ability to fulfill on its sales engagements. The best way to make this dimension present to our customers is to keep our brand promises.

For example, when we communicate certain features or benefits of our products or services, it is important that they are true. The perceived quality and consistency of our brand positioning and the communication we convey will be the key to giving our consumers that level of trust. We live in a digital world where consumers are more active and collaborative for the common good. They use social networks to be able to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the product, creating significant word-of-mouth impact and generating a greater intention to buy. Today, building trust means revisiting promises and ensuring that the consumer experience meets or exceeds their expectations. If the brand can't deliver on a promise, it's best not to communicate it.

2 - Integrity: this is the honesty of the brand's speech and values.

In a world where consumers are more aware of economic, social, and environmental issues, brands must have "DNA" in their mission and vision, meaning that the company must not only focus on economic goals, but must also integrate a more human dimension in their business model. Brands must show consumers what socially responsible activities are practiced internally and externally in the company. For example, some priority issues that impact the value chain internally could be related to the quality of life of the company's employees or to innovate for cleaner and less polluting production. On the other hand, there may be an external impact, such as the good treatment and fair payment of suppliers, community support, transparency in communication, etc. 

3 - Benevolence: shows that the brand is customer-centric, that it considers the interests and needs of the customer and that it will not abandon them. 

Benevolence is the willingness to guide customers through uncertainty and problems and not leave them alone until the problem is solved and they are satisfied with the service before and after the sale. Practical examples may be:

1) When a consumer has doubts about the composition of a product and the company customer service can deliver a quick and accurate answer.

2) When a product or a service does not meet the customer expectations and the company reacts quickly and can provide the right solution.

In summary, some advice to build a long-term relationship of trust could be the following: 

1) Companies need to think about being consistent with brand communication and the real benefits of their products and services. 

2) To show customers how, through their corporate mission and vision, brands are taking tangible and real action for the good of society and the planet.

3) To accompany customers before and after their purchase, in the moments when they feel most vulnerable and expect companies to help them unconditionally and effectively. 

Finally, these notions of value, trust, consistency, and transparency must be coupled with an operational business reality to engage their consumers in a long-term relationship. 

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