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Do your customers trust you?

Angry GirlI recently read an intriguing article on the Studio@Gawker site, which described how two remarkably different organisations solved two very different  business problems through gaining a better understanding of their customers.  They achieved this by using analytic and CRM solutions to help anticipate their customers’ needs—but most importantly of all by considering and addressing the thorny issue of trust amongst their customer base.


It struck me when reading this article that trust is something that we don’t talk about enough in business and business analysis circles, yet it is key for retaining customers. Foster a high trust culture with customers and you’re more likely to hold on to them— and this is true irrespective of whether you’re a small, midsize or multinational enterprise.     Yet in many organisations, the issue of trust might not be considered at all when developing new products, services, systems or processes.  This can be a recipe for disappointment. Without considering the impact on customer trust, changes may be made that have an adverse effect to existing customers, leading to damaged or destroyed relationships.


An example: Trust and relationships

Trust is key to relationships.  I’m willing to guess that if you drive a car, you take your car to a mechanic or garage that you trust when you need a repair or service.  In fact, people often stay with a mechanic or garage that they trust for years – even if they know they can get a cheaper deal elsewhere.    Trust helps build customer loyalty, which is extremely beneficial as it’s often stated that signing up a new customer costs on average 4-6 times more than keeping an existing one.  Clearly, this will vary by organisation and industry, but this highlights the importance of retaining customers and continuing to meet or exceed their needs and expectations.


It’s also generally accepted that trust takes time to build, but can be destroyed in a second.  I remember dealing with a telecommunication company as a consumer where I’d received excellent service for years.  They made a small billing error – and when I contacted them it was so  traumatic to put right that I eventually left.  This inconsistency in experience shook my trust.  They had provided excellent service for years, but one inconsistency in service meant that I left.   If they’d made the correction I’d asked for in a more straightforward manner, I’d have stayed.


What does this mean for business and business analysis

We often talk about the “customer experience” in our businesses along with the importance of representing the customer in our projects and product design activities – and there is no doubt this is an exceptionally important factor.  It’s crucial that the customer gets their product or service at the right quality and that they have a valuable experience.  But how often do we talk about the consistency of service?  Perhaps not enough; particularly given this consistency can affect trust.


Building on from this theme, how often do we benchmark consistency of service before we make changes to systems, processes or organisations?  Do we truly know how many of our customers leave, how many follow ‘exceptional flows’ in our processes and how many are dissatisfied?  And without a benchmark, how do we know whether that consistency has improved or declined?  Often, these items aren’t directly considered.


Regular and thorough business analysis helps enormously in these situations.  In my last article entitled “A muddy airport floor and the forgotten link: People and Process” I alluded to the importance of collaborating across silos and creating processes that capture and allow the analysis of customer feedback.     Building on this theme, some additional techniques that we can use to build robust consistency include:


1.  Analyse the current process – what are the ‘alternative flows’:  Understanding existing as-is processes and procedures and gathering data to understand how many customers “fall between the cracks”  (including those that come up with non-standard queries that cannot be dealt with or end up simply walking away) can be illuminating.  We may need to employ some quantitative data sampling techniques; having access to analytic systems and capabilities helps.

2.  Consider the customer and consistency of service when prioritising requirements:  Often when progressing business change initiatives, it’s necessary to prioritise.  We might not have the time or budget to implement everything we want in one go.  Imagine implementing a customer-facing website: We might have a whole ‘bucket’ of features that we want, but we phase them over several releases.   A key criterion for prioritisation will be business value, but we should also consider customer value and impact on consistency.

3.  Understand the customer journey:  Understanding and designing a ‘cradle to grave’ customer journey will help define the high level touch-points between the organisation and customer.   This can help to avoid silo thinking, and highlight the key ‘moments of truth’ when a customer may need to contact us.  [A free Customer Journey template, along with lots of other useful templates, are available to download for free from the Pragnalysis site] 

4. Ensure front line staff are empowered with information:  When designing processes, procedures and systems a key consideration is what information and data will our front line staff need?  How can we help them anticipate the customer’s real need?  And how can we make sure that the information they have access to is accurate, timely and up-to-date?


In summary, a holistic view of the business, achieved through thorough business analysis will help to ensure a consistent level of service and quality are delivered, and this is one of the cornerstones to building trust with customers.  By examining the holistic business problem, backing up our understanding with data and insight, enables us to consider the people, process, organisational and technology changes that might be necessary to keep our business running effectively and efficiently.

Good luck!


I hope you’ve found this blog post interesting. I’d love to hear from you, so please keep the conversation going add a comment below. And if you like my blog, please subscribe.


PS: If you’re interested in reading the article that inspired me to write this blog post, you can check it out here and there’s an interesting infographic here

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions

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