Building Customer Trust and Loyalty in the Digital Age

The Internet has changed the way businesses interact with customers, and while face-to-face communication is taken out of the equation, this doesn’t diminish the importance of building relationships with consumers.

In the not-so-distant past, all interactions business owners and their personnel had with their customers happened person to person. These days, countless transactions take place on a daily basis completely online with businesses usually communicating with their customers through email and messaging apps, and it is vital, now more than ever, to build customer trust and loyalty if they want to stand out amongst the competition and succeed.

Building trust with customers should be a priority especially in light of recent Internet security breaches. In addition, companies that seem cold, uncaring or incompetent will see no repeat engagement from their customers. Fortunately, there are various avenues open to organizations that allows for building consumer trust online.

Take the time and make an effort to get to know your customers.

As it is with any relationship, building trust and loyalty will take time and effort – and in this case, the effort will have to come from you, the proprietor. Fear not, there are various CRM solutions available to help you monitor your customers’ shopping habits, whether through your online store or your brick and mortar locations. With the help of advanced CRM software, you will be able to determine your customers’ shopping frequency, volume of purchases, and their shopping preferences. Armed with this data, you can create a customized customer loyalty and rewards program to entice your clients to keep coming back for more.

Utilize social media networks to connect with your customers.

A study conducted by HubSpot showed that consumers have high expectations from brands on social media – in fact, they expect brands to be present not only on Facebook, but on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+. And it’s not enough that you create accounts on these social networking sites. People these days expect brands to be engaging, relevant and helpful on social media for them to consider following brands on these platforms. The study also showed that 73% of users are more likely to buy from a business that responds on social media. In addition, the 2014 State of Multichannel Customer Service Survey conducted by Parature showed that 52% of respondents have reported praising a brand on social media, while 35% have complained about them online. 35% of consumers surveyed have asked a customer service question via social media – of these, 59% said the brand responded to their query, complaint or praise, and 51% said that a response gave them somewhat of a more favorable view of the brand.

All this boils down to one thing: if you’re not active on social media, you are missing out on an opportunity to build relationships with your customers. There are conversations already happening with or without you, and if you actually have the power to positively shape the discussion regarding your product and reputation, shouldn’t you use it? However, it is important to remember that to be effective on social media you must actively listen and respond to your customer and their concerns. Whether your customer reaches out to you through a phone call, an email message or a Tweet, you have to remember that you’re dealing with another person, and failing to address their concerns is bad for business.

Make customer service assistance available online.

Aside from monitoring your social media accounts for customer feedback, queries or complaints, it wouldn’t hurt if your customers have a way of reaching you through your website as well via a Live Chat function. You can also include other helpful features such as a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section or a Contact Form for when your customers have questions or problems with their purchases. Also consider this Loyalty360 study which revealed that 62% of respondents expect live chat to be available on mobile devices, and 82% would use it. The study, which surveyed more than 2,100 U.S. residents regarding their online and mobile shopping habits, has determined that 75% of respondents prefer to use live online chat versus calling to speak with an agent.

Do everything that you can to protect your customers’ personal information.

Your customers place a large heaping of trust in you by sharing their personal and financial information with you as they purchase items from you. Therefore, it is up to you to make sure that their data is kept secure by utilizing strong SSL authentication for Web and data protection and ensure that you are PCI compliant. In addition, implement strict written rules and policies with regards to customer data security, educate your employees and encourage them to adhere to these.

Offer multiple payment options.

It is almost a guarantee that not all of your customers will have the same payment methods and if you lack the ability to cater to one or two of them, that will translate to sales losses.

Offer customer loyalty programs

You can do this by offering coupons, loyalty or rewards points, free shipping perks, promotions and contests for your loyal shoppers. A report by COLLOQUY and FanXchange based off of survey of more than 1,000 American consumers revealed that 93% of respondents consider the rewards offered by a brand are either “very important” or “somewhat important” in determining whether to choose that brand. Additionally, 43% of American consumers have purchased more frequently because of reward offerings or loyalty program membership. However, it is important to note that 54% of consumers are unhappy with loyalty program rewards from their favorite brands, and 48% have experienced frustration when attempting to redeem rewards. Remember to keep your loyalty programs simple and easy to understand and use, otherwise it can have the opposite effect and turn your customers off.