May 11, 2010

Managing Brand Trust

Trust takes time.  It takes years to build, but it can be broken in seconds.

In May, 2009 Toyota was voted the most trusted brand in Canada by Readers Digest.  Now where are they?  Less than a year later, their customers’ trust has been severely damaged as they recalled millions of vehicles and bungled the supporting PR campaign.  Consumers were forced to question Toyota’s brand.  Were they really a company committed to “quality”?

You don’t have to face a crisis as large as Toyota’s to jeopardize your customers’ trust.  Simple acts hurt it.  We put our trust in people and companies who will follow through with their commitments.

Be consistent

Maintaining brand consistency is challenging.  The constant push for growth and competitive advantage inevitably means change.  But customers don’t like surprises.  They want a consistent level of service, support and innovation.

We return to our favorite restaurants time after time, because we get a consistent experience.  We like the food, we like the service, and it fits our expectations.

To achieve brand consistency it is essential to know what your company stands for, why you exist and how you serve your customers.  Products and services change, but the brand should be constant.

Be Accountable

From time-to-time you will let your customers down.  Mistakes happen.

Mistakes don’t break trust.  Rather it’s how an organization handles the situation and work to resolve it that makes or breaks trust.

Customers will trust you more if they know you have their back.  Trust is strengthened in challenging situations, because you have an opportunity to work closely with your customers to solve a problem.  They get to see that your company cares, it listens and it will make every effort to resolve the situation.

Trust is broken when companies try to “manage” the situation.  Toyota tried to mitigate their risks, and manage their costs by conducting the recall in stages.  Their behavior did not appear accountable, and the media punished them for it.

How you manage a crisis will always impact trust.  Stand up.  Apologize.  Be accountable.  Solve the problem.  It’s straight forward.

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