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HR Forum


Customer loyalty: Win the loyalty battle

According to the Henley Centre in London and many other research studies, people are very happy to engage with companies and brands when they trust them.

Over 80% of people globally say they would recommend a brand to others if they trust it. They also say that if they trust a brand, they will be more loyal to it and even pay more money for the service or products.

So when it comes to your own company and brand, the million-dollar questions are: “How can I build a brand that people trust more than the services and products of my competitors? How do I create trust in my brand? What brand qualities drive trust and what inhibits it?”

There is a consensus among cognitive scientists that up to 95% of all human thought is unconscious. Since traditional marketing is mainly ignoring this fact, it is time to bring deeper human insights into the equation.

How does the conscious and unconscious mind build trust?

This is the key question if you want to know how to market your brand to consumers, customers, employees and investors.

The consumer battlefield

Freud called the human mind the “battlefield” and the latest consumer psychology confirms this by stating that all decision-making is based on “tensions”.

Each tension balances two opposite but complementary qualities, and we constantly weigh these qualities when making a decision.

Sometimes we move in one direction and other times we are more concerned about the other quality. It all depends on the decision that needs to be made in a particular situation.

Academics from Cologne University have identified three core tensions in the human mind that are responsible for building trust:

1 Stability versus progress

When your customer is about to decide if he wants to trust you, the first and main tension that is considered is between stability and progress.

What are the stabilising factors of your brand? Where is it rooted and where is it coming from? What are the stabilising factors that make people believe you know what you are doing and will still be around next year?

But equally, where is your brand progressing to? How did you innovate and progress in the past, and how will you develop in the foreseeable future?

Brands have to determine who they are and where they are coming from to give them a base to progress in the future.

New online retail businesses often suffer a lack of trust because customers do not know where they came from and are concerned that they may not have the skills to deliver the goods promised.

For this reason, many online retailers set up a physical presence to reassure customers of their retail “credentials”, and the founders of the site may embark on personal public relation campaigns to “put a face” on the business.

Both tactics add stability to the brand and provide balance to their advanced digital business.

So, only if you know where you are coming from will you have the base to determine where you can progress in life.

And only when you know the direction in which you are going will you be seen as progressive and not stuck in the past.

2 Relationship versus practical value

The second tension that determines trust in a brand is relationship versus practical value.

What kind of a relationship does a customer have with a brand?

Is the brand an adviser or a friend; a helper or simply a connector?

Whatever this relationship is, it has to be balanced with the practical value that a customer perceives he will get out of this relationship.

For example, I may be personally liked by a potential client and viewed as a very amiable companion, but if the client does not see me as having the skills to deliver some sort of value to his company, he will not employ me.

Conversely, if a potential client sees me as having great value as a skilled adviser but does not personally like me, he is also unlikely to engage with me.

So getting the balance right between relationship and practical value is a second key tension in developing trust.

3 Vision versus competence

The final tension that builds trust is between vision and competence.

A brand has to have a clear long-term vision, but it also has to have the competence to achieve this vision.

For example, on a personal basis, I may have a vision to eradicate malaria, and you may applaud this worthy vision.

But no matter how much you support the vision, you may not feel that I have the actual competence to achieve it. After all, I am just a brand consultant.

But if my name were Bill Gates, that may convince you that I have the money, contacts and organisational capacity to achieve the vision.

Establishing a clear vision is a key element in building trust, but ensuring that all the pieces are in place to actually deliver the competence to achieve the vision is equally important.

These three tensions balance the six qualities that are critical to brand trust.

Some qualities may be more important than others depending on your business model. But getting the balance right will be critical to gaining customer trust, loyalty, and long-term engagement.

Once all three tensions are balanced and relevant for a particular market, the company and brand should deliver the growth that every business owner is looking for. – Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network

Article by Laurenz Koehler, international consultant with Training Edge International and managing partner of MEXT Consulting.

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