Communication: Critical Ingredient To Build, Maintain Customer Trust

I feel very fortunate to be a consumer during a time when so much attention 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 and innovative ways, whether through introducing new servicing options or advancing digital transformation efforts.

Regardless of industry, trust and communication consistently emerge as key drivers of overall customer experience. Yet it’s surprising how communication can quickly become a problem, 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 example.

Server Snafus 

When my local bank underwent a merger several months ago, I wasn’t overly concerned. A server migration was scheduled, and the bank did a great job of 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, customers found their 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.

It's understandable that in a time of crisis the bank focused all resources and attention to remedying the issue as quickly as possible. However, in its haste to solve the problem at hand, a crucial aspect of customer experience was ignored: communication.

Once the bank realized there was an issue with account balances, it should have attempted to proactively reach out to affected account holders. If the issue was too vast for individual outreach, the bank could -- and arguably, should -- have reached out through social media and/or news outlets to its affected customer footprint.

The bank did eventually post a message on its website, but not quickly enough to stave off significant customer angst. Had the post gone up immediately after the issue was discovered, customers might have felt assured of an impending solution and experienced less panic. This reassurance would have also bought the bank a greater sense of customer understanding and patience, providing them more time to remedy the situation before vast unanswerable call and email volumes descended upon customer service.

Is your organization’s communication style living up to your customers’ expectations and instilling trust?

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