What consumers choose to buy says something about who they are and want to be. And, increasingly, so do the brands that they buy from.
The Australian national identity is closely aligned with the concept of integrity. Australian’s value honesty, moral fibre and the concept of a ‘fair go’.
So perhaps it is unsurprising that KPMG’s 2018 Customer Experience Excellence Report found that Integrity is one of the most important drivers of customer advocacy amongst Australian consumers, carrying a greater weighting than in the UK and US.
Integrity is also recognised as one of the most important pillars driving overall customer experience amongst Australian consumers (19 percent), second only to personalisation (22 percent).
Integrity fuels trust, and trust is the extent to which a brand delivers on its promises and lives up to consumer expectations.
Consumers are paying increased attention to the integrity of the products and services they choose, and the companies offering them. They are being educated by the mainstream media to look for signs of business self-interest, and for evidence of unethical business practices.
Whether or not consumers are aware of it, trust fuels decision making. The trust framework below breaks down what drives trust:
In the Customer Experience Excellence Report, a Bendigo Bank customer said, “They [Bendigo Bank] contacted me with information about changing my account to one with a better return for me,” offering a good example of how an organisation can build trust.
And yet, with few exceptions, trust has declined in nearly every major economy and many developing ones. All brands operate within a larger narrative, and the narrative of today is cynical and mistrusting.
Against this backdrop of declining trust, the idea of what makes a brand is changing rapidly. Customers form their perceptions of a brand based on their experiences – every interaction, every touch point, and in every social media post.
A brand is the sum total of its words, deeds and operating philosophy. Millennials, in particular, are drawn to organisations that display values and convictions beyond simply making money. They seek out organisations that communicate their core beliefs openly and credibly; that are built around a compelling purpose; and where the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ is as important as the ‘what’.
Mature marketing organisations have moved through several stages of branding, from brand as an identity, to brand as a differentiator, brand as a quality mark and, more recently, brand as a compelling idea. Today’s brand must be linked to a philosophy containing values and beliefs and be wrapped in a well-told story.
If this is achieved, customers are likely to relate to a brand, be loyal to a brand, to trust a brand, and may in turn become advocates for the brand.
The successful brands in the Customer Experience Excellent Report have mastered the art of trust-based brand building. They have moved from an era where trust can be bought with advertising and product quality, to an era where trust is built over time, interaction after interaction. Here are some strong examples:
LUSH: Customers of Lush in the Netherlands say they love the product, the people and the mission. It communicates its purpose and its pursuit of ethical relationships with its people, customers and the planet. That is a large part of the reason why Dutch consumers ranked the brand top in the country for customer experience.
Alipay: In China, where consumers have become wary of false advertising and false products, mobile payments platform Alipay has developed an escrow account where customer money is held until the goods arrive in a satisfactory condition. Steps like this have helped build confidence in the platform, and eased consumer fears while accelerating the adoption of online purchasing.
USAA: Brands such as USAA have become adept at ‘signalling behaviours’ – continuously demonstrating to customers why they can be trusted. For example, at the height of the financial upselling scandal in the US, USAA ran this advertising campaign messaging: “We practice down-selling, only selling you exactly what you need.”
KPMG’s experience suggests that in every interaction a consumer has with an organisation, there is a perceived moral code – a way of being that must align with the values of the consumer to build trust.
Leading brands share a common characteristic: they seek to build trust wherever and whenever possible. And they establish a two-way relationship with their customers, encouraging them to participate – to be involved as active shapers of the products and experiences that improve their lives.
'Glocal’ brands are changing customer expectations, meaning local brands need to work harder for market share. Find out more in Customer experience – local versus global maturity.