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Key strategies to build and monitor customer loyalty and trust

Businesses can't immediately expect trust from customers. It requires a lot of effort to build and eventually gain customer loyalty, especially during a pandemic.

The terms customer loyalty and customer trust may seem like they're interchangeable, but they are different, and both take time to establish.

Trust in a product, service or business is the precursor to any loyalty benefits that a business can gain. As businesses open across the country after remaining fully or partially closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are looking for ways to rebuild trust in their brand to reestablish customer loyalty.

Before determining why it's important and how to build customer loyalty and trust, it is important to identify the differences between the two terms.

The difference between customer trust and customer loyalty

Customer trust is the ability for a customer to purchase a product or service knowing that their investment will satisfy their needs. Depending on the type of business, building customer trust can be a time-consuming process due to the level of competition, the complexity or differentiation between products and services, customer experience, and the type of data publicly available to prospective customers, such as marketing material, reviews and other product or service information.

On the other hand, a company establishes customer loyalty -- or brand loyalty -- when the customer develops trust with it. Loyalty is the result of a customer who is fully satisfied with a product or service and the overall customer experience. Loyal customers with positive customer experiences are also likely to return and spend more money with far less hesitation or resistance. Customer loyalty may occur on the very first engagement or it may take time to build. Businesses can build customer loyalty by offering loyalty programs to give customers discounts and offers that other non-loyalty program members may not receive.

Why it's important to establish brand trust

If a business has customers who trust the brand, it will ultimately create a base of loyal customers. This is beneficial to the business for the following reasons:

  1. Customers with well-established trust are likely to continue supporting a business. This means that competition will have less of an effect on this group of customers.
  2. If a business makes a mistake, brand trust also helps retain customers.
  3. The company's advertising and marketing budget for this customer base is also considerably less compared to new customers.
  4. Businesses can gather data from trusted, repeat customers through web or phone surveys, third-party reviews and word-of-mouth feedback to learn more about the products, services and customer experiences they desire. Organizations can use personalized marketing campaigns to hit on the exact points the customer seeks. If businesses seek feedback and act on it, this shows customers that organizations are empathetic and care about customer needs.
  5. Trusting customers may become advocates for a business or brand. This can be in the form of making social media recommendations or intimate endorsements with family and friends.

How to instill trust in customers

For walk-in businesses that want to instill customer trust, especially as businesses reemerge from the pandemic lockdown with new health and safety restrictions, it's important to give customers opportunities to voice their opinions about their experiences. Survey questions may address the quality of customer service or a product, reaction to policy changes or overall satisfaction with a company.

Businesses should add personal touches to all customer experiences -- whether it be in person or online.

Another way to instill trust is by prioritizing customer service and offering multiple ways for customers to contact a business. For example, businesses should train customer service agents to use many support channels including phone, email, social media and online chats; this shows they care enough to meet customers where they're most comfortable communicating. Businesses should add personal touches to all customer experiences -- whether it be in person or online. If a customer service agent treats the customer as a person, addresses them by their name and offers service that goes above and beyond, the customer is likely to return to the business.

It's also important for businesses to maintain a social media presence. By posting videos and text, along with commenting and responding to messages on social media, businesses seem more human to customers. Companies that focus on posting meaningful content and interacting with customers through social media increase trust with customers by increasing engagement.

How to monitor customer experience

While this advice may be valuable today in terms of customer health protections, businesses never know when customer sentiment may change on any given topic. That's why it's important for companies to be on the lookout for shifts in customers' wants and needs. Here are some ways that businesses can track and monitor customer experience:

  • Use a digital CX tool, such as CRM software, customer engagement management software applications and customer success analytics software. These tools contain various technologies that businesses use to collect and analyze customer experience data at multiple engagement points throughout the customer journey.
  • Use surveillance cameras with built-in AI to monitor fluctuations of in-store customer visits. Businesses can use this tool to track occupancy rates over time. Businesses should monitor whether changes to store policies had a positive or negative effect on the overall number of customer visits. With this information, businesses can make changes relatively quickly.

The goal of digital CX is to monitor customer behavior trends so businesses can act on the data to ensure a positive customer experience and, ultimately, build trust and loyalty. Digital CX is a way to gauge the customer experience, and customer feedback enables businesses to adjust to customer needs. Digital CX can monitor customer experience in a post-pandemic scenario but can also monitor general purpose customer experience needs.

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