Shep Hyken, chief amazement officer at Shepard Presentations, on CX Decoded
CX Decoded Podcast
May 4, 2021

CX Decoded Podcast Episode 8: Building Customer Trust in Unprecedented Times

All relationships are built on trust whether you're talking about the people you meet in the course of your life or the brands and the relationships they build with their customers. In fact, according to data from Edelman in 2019 prior to the pandemic, 81% of customers buy based on trust.

Having consumers trust your brand has always been an important factor in customer experience success, but the past 15 months has definitely amplified things. In fact, Experian’s global research from July 2020 showed that 52% of customers who felt that businesses treated them fairly during the pandemic plan to give those companies more of their business.

As consumers continue to increase their digital transactions, companies need to work hard to enhance customer trust. Improved identity authentication and recognition, for example, will play a key role.

Further, as the world's economy and social activities begin to ramp up again with COVID-19 vaccinations in full swing, those that succeed will find their business on far more steady ground.

In this latest edition of our CX Decoded podcast, co-hosts Rich Hein and Dom Nicastro of CMSWire discuss building customer trust with customer service and customer experience expert Shep Hyken, chief amazement officer at Shepard Presentations.

Have a suggestion, comment or topic for a future episode? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.

Rich Hein: I'm curious to know as we get started here, where do you think customer trust wound up in the mix for most organizations throughout the past year?

Shep Hyken: Well in the beginning I believe customers were scared. They were nervous. New companies were scrambling but in very short order, they started to expect the businesses they did business with to come back to the way they were, if not even stronger, and in alignment with what was happening at the moment, which was, "Make it safe for me to do business with you." And I believe safety became a very important part of that trust. Are you going to keep me healthy? If I go to the grocery store, are you going to manage the protocols of properly wearing masks not letting too many people in? Are you going to give me touchless ability when I go to checkout? That's just a grocery store.

In the world of customer service and support, there was an incredible increase of not only support calls, but support calls that went to human to human. Even though companies were forced to go digital, customers wanted to talk to a human being. There was a report that came out sometime toward the end of the summer that said there was a higher than 50% increase in demand for customers wanting to talk to a human versus traditional self-service support that they took care of prior to that. What they were looking for is empathy. And if you know what the definition of empathy is, it's where I would understand you, to the point where it's like, "I get you, I'm like you, and we're in sync." That builds trust.

Rich Hein: It's actually on our list of things to talk about. I mean everyone talks about empathy, but how do brands put that into action in terms of customer trust and customer experience?

Shep Hyken: They train their people properly to understand what customers expect and how to use empathy. The right words to say. The words not to say. I just had a great conversation with a gentleman who gave me a great definition. He said is empathy is not sympathy. What do you mean? I mean, if you're sympathetic to someone, doesn't that mean you're kind of borderline if not right in the world of empathy? No. Sympathy comes from me being better than you. Me consoling you, forcing you to look up to me for my feelings. Empathy means I'm getting right in the trench with you, and I'm right there with you. I get you. I understand you. And the old line, "let's walk in a mile in our customer's shoes." I always joke, well, when you're a mile away, they can't hear what you're saying to them anyway.

Rich Hein: Organizations talk a lot about customer trust and all that, but how do they actually go about proving to their customers that they have their best interest in mind?

Shep Hyken: Well, the proof is in the behavior, the actions that we have. It's very easy to say one thing and do something else. So prove that we will do exactly what we say; it's pretty much that simple, and that's where it starts.

There's an old, it's not really a cliche, but it's a saying: "People want to do business with people they know, like and trust." The knowing and liking is easy, and especially in North America where we are, if you go into other parts of the world to get somebody to know you and like you it is a little bit more difficult in certain countries and certain regions. In North America, I've got a nice piece of marketing material and I make a promise to you and you start to engage with friendly people that are knowledgeable and they seem to care about you. I mean almost instantly you're building this rapport and at least you're getting the liking and you start to get to know them. But the trust, that takes a little bit of time.

So, in my world of customer service and experience I talk about managing the moment of truth. If you walk into a store and perhaps the employee looks up at you and says, "Well, good morning, welcome. What can I help you find today?" That's probably a little above average, but it's not like the best service you've ever had in your life. But if a number of those moments of truth, those interactions that start to happen in that experience a customer has are all positive like that — friendly, engaging, knowledgeable — you start to build this rapport and this trust.

So this is what customers want. They want consistency and predictability with the experience that they like. And what you want your customers to say, is the word "always" in front of something positive. They're always so knowledgeable. They always get back to me quickly. They always are friendly. They're always helpful. And by the way, then there's a problem and you confront them with this issue and maybe it's even a complaint and they manage it in a great way and then you can say, "And they always take care of me, even when there's a problem." So, that word always is an indication that I trust this company as long as it's followed by something positive."

Dom Nicastro: You know it's funny when you mentioned trust and it takes time, it takes years sometimes. Sometimes it can be quick. Sometimes you can win me over and one digital customer experience. I asked my retired mechanic if he had any recommendations for a new mechanic. "Go to this guy," he said. "He's honest; if you don't need work on the car, he will tell you." And guess what happened three hours later? The guy in the next town over called and said, "Your brakes are fine. You don't need any work."

That was a great in-person experience. I went down the street, it's like a family affair. How in the past 12 months, though, have brands been able to establish these kinds of moments, these magical moments, in a digital sense?

Shep Hyken: Well it has to be easy. This is what's happened: a lot of companies have been forced to go into that digital experience. Nothing new. These were not brand-new inventions that just came out of the last year. These were innovations that had taken place, and were available long before, and the pandemic accelerated certain behaviors.

Interestingly, if there was no pandemic, I believe that three to five years from now, they would have experienced everything like we're experiencing today anyway. We are moving to the digital world. We have a generation that's younger that likes to take control. And, as companies, brands, whatever it is that we do whoever is listening to this show today needs to understand that's our new customer. That's our up-and-coming customer. We've got to provide them the experience that they want and expect if we want to remain competitive.

So, the digital tools are there to help us. They're there to make life easier for us. They're there to give us what we want. And here's the key thing: if you decide to use these tools, number one, make them easy. Make them intuitive. Somebody lands on a website and they can't figure out what to do, what's the first thing they're going to want to do? They're going to dig, they're going to dig, and they're going to get frustrated. Then they're gonna want to talk to a human, and when they finally do talk to a human, they're probably not going to be happy. That said, at any given time in the interaction where the customer is not getting what they want or they need help in any way, there needs to be a seamless transition from digital to human.