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        4 min read

        Cultivating Trust in Times of Change: An Interview with Jeanne Bliss & Erin Fenn

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        Earlier this week, we conducted an interview with Jeanne Bliss, CEO/Founder of CustomerBliss, and Erin Fenn, Executive Vice President at Intouch Insight. Together, we examined the ways in which brands can cultivate trust during times of change.

        We also addressed the importance of:

        • Soliciting feedback in a contextualized and appropriate manner;
        • How to practice fearless listening;
        • And, the value of letting down our corporate veneers.

        Watch the full video here, or continue reading on for the highlights!

        Trust in 2020

        When it comes to the idea of cultivating trust, we must first ensure that we have an accurate understanding of what brand trust is, and how it differs from brand loyalty. Bliss explained at the top of the interview,

        “I try to think of trust as a true, level partnership between consumer and brand, where both customers and companies are better off because they're in each other's lives.”

        Loyalty is often nurtured and awarded because a product or brand meets a need or expectation. However, “...loyalty can evaporate when consumer trends change…”. While brand loyalty may have driven business in a pre-COVID-19 world, today’s consumer is far more concerned with being heard, feeling safe, and interacting with brands they trust. According to our Changes in Consumer Habits study, 61% of respondents shared that safety has become their top priority, influencing their decision to only buy from brands they trust. Loyalty is cultivated and rewarded, but trust is earned and requires hard work, transparency, and on-going dialogue.

        Listening to Hear

        Building on this notion of trust, Fenn suggests how businesses can personalize customer experience to build rapport and cultivate trust, by changing the way in which they listen.

        “I think one of the core principles, whether it's during a pandemic or in regular times, really comes down to listening to hear.

        Listening is more than just reading a comment in a box. It requires looking at all the different streams in which a customer is going to communicate with your brand and being honest and proactive in your reception, as well as in the subsequent actions taken.

        Often, businesses gravitate towards wanting to validate instead of wanting to understand when they’re trying to listen.

        “We've started to crack through the corporate veneer and the veneer of who we are as people”, says Bliss.

        This is happening every day, with the increase in work-from-home, with kids out of school, and in the blending and overlapping of our professional and personal lives. We are listening to our consumers and our employees in ways we never have before.

        The interesting thing about today’s consumer is that we have an active audience that's willing to tell you exactly what it is that will make them feel comfortable. Bliss adds, “We should all practice fearless listening and change the questions we are asking.” Fearless listening is described in her blog as, “Sitting down with ten to fifteen customers and having company leaders participate in the conversation. They sit at the table with customers and talk to them face-to-face.” By taking this idea and coaching leadership into engaging in these kinds of human conversations with customers, leadership is left with a contextualized narrative, one that allows them to better anticipate needs and understand moments of truth in the changing customer journey.

        Humanity in Services and Operations

        In addition to the feedback mechanisms discussed, let’s not forget that quality of service and operational practices also play a role in cultivating trust between customers and companies. Bliss was asked whether she believes today’s consumer is more motivated by the quality of services rendered or by the operational practices being used to keep people safe. Bliss however challenged the notion that quality of services could be considered more or less important than operational practices, and vice versa, especially when it comes to how we convey our humanity and in ensuring customer and employee safety. The smile a cashier gives a customer and the well-wishes they send before they leave a store can be just as important as the publicly-posted safety procedures on the storefront window. Both exemplify humanity and ultimately are in pursuit of the same objective:

        • To create a sense of comfort;
        • To ensure customer and employee safety;
        • And, to provide a positive overall experience that cultivates trust.

        Remember, as Bliss stated at the start of the interview, “..trust is a level-partnership, where both customers and companies are better off because they're in each other's lives.”

        Today, businesses have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to leave a lasting impression on their customers.

        “Memory creation is the currency of a brand and every business should put its employees in a position to deliver a life-long, lasting memory”, according to Bliss.

        This is a time in our life that everyone on the planet will look back on, remembering how they were treated and what they experienced. The good, the bad, and everything in between. How do you want to be remembered?

        The 2020 pandemic has pushed companies to do the kind of listening that we’ve always known has the power to elevate and change a brand. There's a greater awareness now of how interconnected we are.

        “What worked yesterday is not the same as what will work tomorrow”, says Fenn.

        This is a good time to not only solicit feedback but to really embrace it and make it a part of your brand’s DNA. We need to keep asking the right kinds of questions, and listening without fear to truly hear the needs and expectations of consumers and employees as human beings. Let’s keep this front-of-mind as we move forward and begin to build better relationships, better processes, and better businesses.

        If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out: letschat@intouchinsight.com.

        Intouch is trusted by over 300 of North America's most-loved brands for our mystery shopping, operational and compliance audits, customer surveys, mobile forms, and Customer Experience Management software.