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Employees giving hands and helping colleagues to walk upstairs. Team giving support, growing together. Vector illustration for teamwork, mentorship, cooperation concept

This week we launched our Trust Index™, an in-depth and independent evaluation of the true drivers and value of trust amongst British brands. Trust is high on the news agenda. And yet trust is a difficult factor to measure, with every profession – from psychology to marketing – having its own take on how to track public trust. Research we have undertaken for many years has shown that where organisations deliver exceptionally high levels of customer service, they have much higher levels of trust and reputation. However, in our more detailed recent research we can see just how interwoven and linked these areas are.

Our research, which benchmarks seven drivers of trust across the UK, proves that there is a clear link between service and trust. Providing better service boosts customer trust, supports retention and drives recommendation. Eight in ten buyers are more likely to trust an organisation that delivers effective service, and 81% say it is a key factor in remaining a customer. Achieving higher levels of service is therefore a much wider concern for business leaders than simply the number of functional measures. The service agenda is intrinsically linked to perceptions of quality and reliability.

Organisations able to achieve high levels of customer trust, are able to unlock referrals and new opportunities, with 95% of customers actively recommending brands they trust. However, in a warning to those tempted to cut back on service levels in the face of tough economic conditions, 78% of customers are likely to seek an alternative in the event their trust is broken.

Our Benchmarking reveals that certain sectors are more effective at unlocking a trust dividend than others, with leisure providers and supermarkets ahead of the curve, while those missing out are more likely to be utility firms and train companies. While every business and sector has their own unique challenges, it feels fair to highlight that service disruption or stock shortages combined with rising prices are common to all of these sectors, and yet some are thriving on referrals while others struggle with trust issues.

Taking my own regular weekly shop and commute as an example, the difference between the proactive personalised services provided to me when filling my shopping basket, and the challenge of claiming rebates on my tickets for delays are stark. As our Index reveals, it comes down to customer reassurance, which immediately follows quality and reliability of services as a driver of trust. Effective, human, personalised service reassures customers that an organisation is on their side. Conversely, customers may view those getting it wrong as not having their best interests at heart, as they experience broken promises and suffer repeated errors.

Fundamentally, as a profession, we need to be more cognisant of the genuine impact and interlinked nature of a service-led culture and how it impacts across a number of key business drivers – productivity, return, reputation and trust. As our Trust Index research reveals – and our new Trust Workshop emphasises – those businesses smart enough to focus on customer intimacy are better prepared for the challenging economic conditions ahead.

Jo joined The Institute as its CEO in 2009. She has driven membership growth by 150 percent and established the UK Customer Satisfaction Index as the country’s premier indicator of consumer satisfaction, providing organisations with an indicator of the return on their service strategy investment.

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