How to Survive the Collapse of Trust in Business
There is one thing that has the power to kill your business, regardless of the quality of goods or services you provide: Lack of trust.
While trust is fundamental to any relationship, in business it is an essential strategic asset. Without it, both employees and customers will go elsewhere (hint: to your competition).
Keep trust levels high when it matters most.
The importance of trust in business
Without trust, employee engagement and retention will suffer. Stakeholders will lose confidence in you. Customers will leave you for brands they believe have their best interests in mind. The consequences of distrust are important to understand, namely because public trust has never been lower.
Distrust is rampant.
The latest edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer found public trust in the U.S. hit a record low in 2018. Trust in business fell to 48% in the U.S., down 10 percentage points from 2017.
However, there is a silver lining.
The trust void creates an opportunity for companies and leaders to reemerge as figures of dependability. In doing so, they can achieve greater employee performance and a healthier organizational culture. They can protect the bottom line by improving customer loyalty and strengthening their brand.
No institution is immune to the rise of distrust
From 2017 to 2018, public trust in the U.S. plunged from 52 points to 43 points on the Trust Index, the largest recorded drop of all countries evaluated, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.
People are losing faith in all of the evaluated institutions: non-governmental organizations (-9%), government (-14%), media (-5%), and business (-10%).
The collapse of trust can be an opportunity
Despite this widespread decline, the majority of respondents believe businesses and their leaders can become agents of change, according to The Trust Barometer.
- 44% of respondents regard CEOs as very or extremely credible spokespeople, compared to 35% who say the same about government officials
- 64% of respondents say CEOs should drive change instead of waiting for the government
- 84% expect CEOs to inform policy debates on issues such as jobs, the economy, automation, regulations, globalization, corruption, global warming, discrimination, immigration, and others.
How to improve trust—and reap the benefits
Trust in business has never been more important. Employees and customers alike are demanding accountability and reliability.
According to the Trust Barometer, 82% of respondents believe employees should speak up if they see their company doing wrong.
Another 63% agree with the statement:
“A good reputation may get me to try a product—but unless I come to trust the company behind the product I will soon stop buying it, regardless of its reputation.”
There are strategies organizations can adopt to gain the trust of employees and customers.
How to improve trust with employees
1. Improve communication and transparency
Clear and consistent communication is critical to building trust in business. If employees feel like you are keeping them in the dark about important decisions, they will not only distrust you, they will resist any change you initiate.
Boost transparency by establishing open channels of communication. Make sure your employees know their ideas are welcome and will be taken seriously. Leaders, increase your presence around the company. Everyone in the company should know your face.
In large corporations with hundreds or even thousands of people, it may not be possible to meet each individual employee. But with social media platforms like LinkedIn and enterprise communication tools like Slack, it’s easy to stay connected.
2. Make change management painless
People are inherently wary of change. Fear of the unfamiliar is one reason. Disrupted workflow is another. Whatever the reason, if leadership fails to deploy effective change management techniques, the change initiative is prone to fail.
Leaders need employees’ trust to make the change go smoothly, and employees need to trust leadership not to completely throw a wrench in their workflow. The solution lies in finding the right processes, communication and change management tools. A Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) is a proven change management solution. It uses contextual guidance and real-time, navigational prompts to guide users through any web-based or desktop app. For digital transitions, there is no better solution.
No more frustration, no more time-consuming training sessions, no more stress. The extra steps you take to make change easier for employees will not go unrecognized, and this will translate into higher levels of trust.
3. Provide better benefits
Employees often use benefits to gauge how much a company values them. You can gain their trust and loyalty by providing the right kind.
Prove to your employees that you care about their well-being by providing benefits that promote wellness. Companies increasingly offer perks like discounted gym memberships, healthy food in the office, onsite yoga, nap rooms, massages, and more to help employees stay healthy and happy.
These are benefits with benefits. In addition to building trust. employee stress will go down while health and well-being rise. As a result, employee engagement and productivity will also increase. Competitive benefits make it easier to attract new candidates and retain all-star employees.
How to improve trust with customers
1. Embed your core values into your brand
More than ever before, consumers link buying decisions to corporate values.
The vast majority of American shoppers (87%) said they will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue that’s important to them, according to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study. Another 76% will not purchase products or services from a company upon learning it supports an issue they oppose.
Once considered a huge no-no for businesses, consumers now want organizations—namely, CEOs—to take a stance on pressing issues. Taking a position on a sensitive social or political topic runs the risk of alienating some customers, so CEOs must think carefully before doing so. However, becoming an advocate for certain issues can actually strengthen the company’s brand.
2. Provide high-quality products and services consistently
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but we can elaborate. If you want someone to trust you and become a repeat customer, don’t make them regret giving you their money.
The quality of products and services is directly tied to the level of trust in business. Improving your offerings should be an ongoing goal. One way to keep progress continual is to solicit feedback from your customers. Ask them how you can improve, then actually take those suggestions into account.
3. Take responsibility for your mistakes
Accidents happen. People make mistakes. It’s not good when your company’s name becomes the subject of negative press, but it’s possible to recover with the right approach.
Take the iconic case of the Tylenol poisonings of 1982. After an unidentified person in Chicago laced Tylenol bottles with cyanide, seven people died. The crisis could have destroyed the company, but it didn’t. Tylenol was able to maintain the public’s trust because it showed it puts public safety above profits: the company temporarily pulled all of its products from the shelves (costing it millions of dollars), issued national warnings not to take its drugs, and implemented preventative safety measures.
We see the consequences of distrust everyday. The rise of fake news has crippled the mainstream media’s credibility. Scandal and instability have driven many to lose faith in governments around the world.
If lost, trust is difficult—if not impossible—to rebuild.
Trust in business is critical to maintaining a loyal customer base and an engaged and productive workforce. With high levels of trust, companies will see turnover decline and morale rise. They’ll be able to grow customer loyalty without gimmicks or tricks.