In Part 1 of our series on Building Brand Trust, we discussed strategies for building trust through social media and customer communities. While companies should always strive for a proactive approach to building brand trust, however, there are times when trust has been broken and needs to be restored. Here we discuss strategies for repairing broken trust – even when it may seem like an impossible task.
In 2008, our economy entered the biggest recession since the Great Depression. With unemployment currently sitting at (albeit a slightly improved) 7.8%, the U.S. economy is still recovering from the shock four years later. The collapse of trust in the financial services industry was a perfect storm of trust-busting missteps, and financial institutions are struggling to reclaim trust. According to a recent article published by the American Marketing Association, less than 50% of investors have contributed to their portfolios since January 2009 and fewer investors in 2012 than in 2010 believe that “now is a good time to invest,” down from 69% in 2010 to 54% in 2012, according to research from Maritz Inc.
Here’s the good news: No matter how desperate the situation, in most cases trust can be restored if you follow these three steps.
Three Strategies for Restoring Trust
According to Steven M. R. Covey, author of bestselling business book, The Speed of Trust, “When trust is broken, you can’t talk your way out of it. You behave your way out of it.” Here are three steps Covey says are instrumental for repairing broken trust (and to get it right, you have to do all three):
1. Show responsibility
2. Right the wrong
3. Change your behavior: Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it
Restoring Trust in the Financial Services Industry: Transparency is Key
For financial institutions still working hard to repair trust in a recovering economy, restoring trust begins with taking responsibility for the circumstances that originally led to the breach in customer trust, owning the harm that was caused and then righting the wrong by communicating what steps your institution has taken since that time to prevent the situation from happening in the future, and authenticity and transparency in customer communications is critical. Consider this success story published recently by the AMA: Charles Schwab & Co. Inc. conducted a client trust survey in Q2 2012 which indicated financial services is one of the least-trusted categories in the market. With the goal of improving brand trust, the company adapted the “Talk to Chuck” campaign (originally created in 2005) to build trust through approachable language such as, “Let’s talk about being entrusted with $1.6 trillion in client assets. And how we can earn that kind of trust.” Additionally, Schwab & Co. Inc. is transparent about the risks and rewards of investing and encourages customers to rate and comment on key financial services products to help provide transparency.
Crisis Communications and Social Media
Social media can be a powerful platform for managing crisis communications and restoring brand confidence when trust has been broken, and companies who are authentic and show responsibility by owning their mistakes and by taking proactive steps to right their wrongs can even strengthen trust to higher levels than before the trust-breaking event. The classic crisis communications example of the 1982 Tylenol recall illustrates this principle. Tylenol could have sustained a huge financial hit (or even imploded); instead, the company’s proactive communications strategy, which put consumer safety first, prevented Tylenol from losing its position as a trusted household brand. Tylenol’s approach follows Covey’s playbook of strategies for restoring trust to a tee and puts transparency at the forefront of restoring brand trust.
When trust is broken, it’s critical to show responsibility for your end of the breakdown in trust. How you respond is even more important than the circumstances that compromised trust in the first place, and trust can be strengthened by your response. For the financial services industry especially, transparency about investment risk and rewards is critical to navigating an environment of record-low consumer trust. Marketing technology systems such as marketing resource management systems can help to manage transparency in customer communications, enabling a personalized customer response that fosters trust and confidence in your brand.
How are you using marketing technology to foster brand trust? We’d love to hear stories from your experience.