We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift around what customers expect from corporations and large businesses. Consumers no longer simply want the lowest prices – they want to give their money to organisations with an ethical backbone and responsible practices. So, what are the signs of a brand that deserves its customers’ trust?
- Staff know your brand values by heart
… and not just because you’ve made it part of their job description. Organisations with strong brand values (and strong values in general) are good at communicating these across the business. They’re also great at spotting talent and recruiting people who share their organisational outlook, so it’s less a case of training staff, and more a case of tapping into the values you already share and making them explicit at every level of the company.
- You have a healthy NPS
Sometimes, metrics matter. Net Promoter Score is a measure of customer esteem that’s been embraced by a huge number of companies. It uses a single question to gauge loyalty: ‘how likely are you to recommend X company to a friend or colleague?’ It’s especially powerful because it uses the idea of social proof to identify real loyalty. When people are willing to stake their personal relationships on a brand’s quality, that brand must be doing something right. The scale runs from -100 to 100 – so if you’re towards the positive end of that, you’re in pretty good shape.
- You ask customers’ opinions – and act on the results
Of course, Net Promoter Score isn’t the only way customers can express their thoughts on your brand. Regularly giving end-users the opportunity to feed back on how you’re doing is a good idea for a couple of reasons. Not only does it provide you with valuable data and insights, it also signals to customers that you care what they think and are invested in making improvements. Most crucial of all though, is acting on the responses you receive. When customers see improvements and pick up that you’ve done what they asked from your marketing, they can see your brand’s integrity in action.
- Employees have a meaningful stake in your success
Companies who really integrate their staff in their business are on to a winner, both from an operational perspective and in terms of their brand perception. Data shows that staff who feel engaged in their work are more productive and more loyal. Engagement comes from employees feeling involved in decision making, feeling that their ideas and contributions are valued, and that they have a chance to develop in their roles. And, from an outside perspective, a strong employer brand will lift your overall brand perception – who wouldn’t want to buy from a company that cares about its people? A great example of this is John Lewis and Partners, known for making every employee a stakeholder in its business. As well as being a byword for quality, it’s also repeatedly won awards like ‘best retail place to work’ and ‘brand you’d be most proud to work for’.
- You get the details right
Strong brands are infused right into the grain of a business, and it shows. Products, retail experiences, packaging, customer service – an authentic brand can be felt everywhere. That doesn’t mean you can’t outsource parts of your operation, or that you won’t sometimes slip up and fail to meet expectations. But the fact that you care enough to do things ‘your’ way, and to find partners who are prepared to help you fulfil your brand promise is what counts. Customers who buy from an authentic brand know that they’re in safe hands from the moment they come into contact with you, to the final stage of enjoying their purchase or service. That means you choose high-quality courier services, sturdy packaging, a great aftercare service and offer a guarantee that does more than the bare minimum.
- You’re transparent about your supply chain
If you import goods or components from overseas, as most big businesses do, you’re likely to face some scrutiny about your supply chain. Where your products come from, how the people who make them are treated and whether your suppliers are environmentally responsible – it all plays into your brand perception and levels of trust. Smart brands don’t just source ethically; they take time to explore the stories within their supply chains and turn them into feel-good marketing that reassures customers. For example, M&S teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund on a sustainable cotton programme that yielded some high-quality editorial about changes to agricultural practices and improvements to quality of life for farmers overseas.
- You own up to your mistakes
Scandals and revelations about the way large companies behave have made us wary about taking things at face value. And there’s nothing worse for customer confidence than the discovery that mistakes have been hushed up or misreported by companies looking to evade blame and trying to protect their reputation. Increasingly, brands are becoming wise to the value of honesty and, perhaps spurred on by the appetite for ‘realness’ on social media, holding their hands up when things go wrong. KFC’s ‘run out of chicken’ moment was pretty much a PR disaster, but rather than try to play down the problem, the brand embraced the embarrassment with full page ads apologising to customers – and received plenty of kudos in return.
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