Building trust in business isn’t easy. A recent report found that trust in insurance, retail, utilities and financial services has dropped significantly in the past few years.

Building trust in business isn’t easy. A recent report found that trust in insurance, retail, utilities and financial services has dropped significantly in the past few years.

Whether shopping for jeans, a suitcase or insurance, consumers are spoilt for choice these days. So how do we decide where to spend our money? More than ever, it's a matter of trust.

Building a trustworthy business is vital given consumers seek out reliable brands in response to ongoing economic instability.

But building trust isn't as easy as it sounds. The recent Brand Asset Valuator report found that trust in insurance, retail, utilities and financial services has declined more than 20 per cent in the past couple of years. This has been blamed on constant price hikes, poor customer service and confusing offers.

But there are some simple steps businesses can take when working to build trust. Start by considering what destroys trust for your customers, suggests Andy Pontin, chief executive of Sydney advertising agency Clemenger BBDO.

Pontin says businesses should remember that consumers seek brands being true to their word, don't take them for granted, deliver on their promise and respect their needs.

“Trust can be lost very quickly if a brand doesn't behave the way it promises it will, which can happen to even large brands. You've absolutely got to stick to your promises,” he says.

“Consistency is also extremely important when establishing trust. Once people have a strong perception of a brand, they find it very unsettling if the brand changes its approach.”

Well-known Australian businesses regularly approach Clemenger BBDO asking for help to reinvent their brand without first making changes to the way they do business.

“A business will admit it hasn't changed anything about the way it operates, but it still wants us to find a way to change negative perceptions so that consumers feel better about their brand," Pontin says.

"But that can be very hard to achieve if the business isn't delivering on its promises.”

Ensuring all branding is consistent, responding to messages and emails efficiently, dealing with complaints and perfecting your offering is vital, Pontin says.

Even a poorly-designed website can result in consumers losing faith, he says.

Paris Searson, vice-president of PR firm Fleishman-Hillard Australia, agrees that trust is not about a company name, logo or advertising campaign, but about the way a company behaves.

“Authenticity is vital when building trust. You've got to create a two-way dialogue both with staff and customers and speak the truth,” Searson says.

Social media has added another layer of complexity to building trust, with an irate customer able to vent online, forcing businesses to wise up about the intricacies of social media etiquette.

“In this age of social media, it's so easy to get caught out as a brand and as such, a growing number of businesses are being forced to apologise on social media,” she says.

Searson advises businesses in the wrong to own up, apologise on social media if complaints are being made online, take steps to fix things and move on.

A considered public-relations campaign can also work wonders in building trust, and can cost a lot less than other forms of marketing, she says.

A tradesman could simply post a thank you letter after completing a job, which can build trust and ultimately increase the chance of repeat business, Searson says.

“PR is about communicating the story of its brand in a way that customers can relate to. Businesses need to avoid spin at all costs and instead, focus on being authentic,” she says.

Earning trust: what consumers want

• A brand known to them
• Businesses that keep promises and stick to deadlines
• Clear, simple messages
• Authenticity and transparency
• Brands with longevity in the market and a demonstrated track record
• Consistent branding
Source: Clemenger BBDO Sydney

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