Every time a global business reports a security breach, we're reminded of how easy it is to lose trust in an organization - and how difficult that trust can be to re-earn. And there's no time like the holidays to remind consumers of their choices when it comes to selecting gifts, travel, meals and more. The most successful modern businesses strive for a public reputation built on trust, reliability and credibility.
Earning a consumer's trust often takes years of careful engineering, and today's biggest corporations are masters at the game. Coca-Cola, for example, has spent decades honing a particular image of their namesake beverage come holiday time. The children of the baby boom grew up watching friendly polar bears on TV, snapping open bottles of refreshing Coke. The brand has spent decades convincing audiences that Coke is synonymous with family, tradition, holiday and home - and these trust-building values are certainly part of Coke's secret to global success.
Yet assuring consumer trust need not take decades - or dollars. For three easy and effective ways to build trust come holiday time, read on.
Market Compassion First and Foremost
As marketers are putting the finishing touches on this season's campaign, it will pay to embed a compassionate message wherever possible. In today's turbulent world, consumers are seeking a retail experience they can feel good about, so take extra precautions to ensure every outgoing campaign has the consumer's best interests at heart. Be sure that you're presenting your offerings fairly - and warmly, since holiday shoppers aren't looking for even well-intended snarkiness. Try aligning your campaign with initiatives your consumers will feel good about supporting, like pairing a product promotion with access to a community event, or offering to donate a portion of your product's proceeds to a worthy cause.
Never Snub the Humble Review
Modern consumers know that their voices hold power, and product reviews are gold for today's savvy shopper. As such, it never pays to overlook a negative review - and it's worth acknowledging glowing reviews, too. Especially with larger purchases, consumers are turning in increasing numbers to related reviews before taking the plunge. As a case in point, a recent Zendesk survey found that nearly 90 percent of respondents allowed good reviews to affect their purchasing decisions, and just over 85 percent admitted that negative reviews had affected their decisions, too.
If your organization isn't currently harnessing the power of the review, now's as good a time as any to jump on board. Start by encouraging customers to write Google Reviews, since the search engine will only continue to dominate the consumer shopping experience. Google Reviews are easily accessed and can offer a bright picture of your business before the user even enters your website. Earnest testimonials posted to your website and social media can also elicit holiday trust.
Acknowledge - and Assuage - Your Detractors
It's the holidays, and everyone's bound to make a mistake - shipping gets muddled, orders are filled incorrectly and phone center operators get overwhelmed. Still, it's imperative to remember that the customer is always right - at least where detractors are concerned. Those interested in taking away from your company's integrity are a threat to your brand, and must be addressed - never ignored. In today's digital realm, a disgruntled customer is more than likely than not to brand-bash in front of their 400 closest Facebook friends.
Don't shy away from interacting with customers on all levels, from Twitter to email to the old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. Offer a friendly, helpful attitude at all times, and don't stop your work until a solution's been found. Don't shy away from responding to complaints on TripAdvisor and Yelp, even if you may not be able to take them down - consumers will know you reached out, and they'll be able to read about any efforts you made to solve the problem. And before complaints hit the world of online reviews, try assuaging the disgruntled with promotions, coupon codes, or other forms of special treatment—a step that could save you a disastrous negative review.
This holiday season, put the customer first: tailor marketing that appeals to his or her compassion, and encourage him or her to share their great experiences online. If problems arise, deal with them immediately, with a smile on your face (or in your tone). It's goodwill full speed ahead, since today's marketers recognize that feel-good shopping at holiday time means a bright new year for all.
About the Author
Seth Worby is the CEO and founder of Champ Internet in Newton, MA. Contact Seth at firstname.lastname@example.org.