I often get asked by B2B service providers how they can grow their revenues and differentiate from competitors. They ask me where they should concentrate – raising their customer satisfaction ratings, innovating their products or competing on price.
The answer is that there’s one area that all B2B service providers need to improve that offers considerable scope for revenue growth. And that is to increase the trust their customers have in them.
The benefits of trust
Investing in trust creates numerous benefits. For example, The Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands Study 2018 shows that quality not cost is the top trust driver for brands, and brand trust drives spending, loyalty and attention. Key stats from this study include:
- 90% of respondents agreed that a winning brand delivers consistently high quality.
- 71% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for products or services from brands they trust.
- 83% say that when quality and price are similar, trust is the deciding factor of choice.
- 60% have recommended a trusted brand to others in the past 12 months.
- 72% say they are loyal to brands they trust.
- 71% pay more attention to brands they trust.
B2B service providers often focus on products, technology and pricing as the key components of successful relationships with their customers. Of course, these have a role to play. However, no-one will buy your great new products or increase their spending with you if they don’t trust you. Particularly in the digital economy where their service providers’ offerings are an integral part of their business.
By focusing on cost, and not putting more effort into increasing customer trust, B2B service providers are missing out on considerable value in the form of decreased churn, higher customer satisfaction and increased revenues. Focusing on a purely transactional relationship means that customers inevitably seek to reduce spending because there is no depth to the relationship.
The trust divide
Trust, however, is not a static factor. It’s earned every day. This means that companies, industries and countries increase or decrease trust as people’s perceptions about them change. Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer, for example, shows that while China is gaining trust (a 27 point gain), the UK is staying flat and the US is losing trust (a 37 point drop).
Trust in technology is declining according to Edelman in 16 of the 28 geographies studied. For example, it dropped 19 points in the US, 14 points in Germany and 18 points in France. Trust in established technology remained high at 75% (the most trusted business sector), but trust in new and emerging technologies is far lower. This indicates that trust is lower where there is less certainty, a situation that is characteristic of today’s B2B market where there is a huge amount of both technological and commercial change.
How to build trust into a B2B relationship
So how do you build trust into your customer relationships? Well trust occurs between people, not organisations. So the same principles apply as to any other relationship:
- Be reliable and keep your promises.
- Tell the truth and make your words and actions match.
- Foster frequent, open communication and say no sometimes.
- Be honest about your own needs – this means explaining what you need to get out of this relationship.
- Be open to feedback.
- Value long term relationships more than short term successes.
- Sell without selling out. Have integrity.
- Share, coach and listen. Become more than just someone who wants something. Help your customer grow, navigate problems and bring them new ideas.
- Admit your faults. Be transparent, authentic and show how you will remedy things that are wrong
- Keep staffing stable.
Trust is an essential component of brand values. When customers lose faith in a brand, its value plummets even if its image is designed beautifully and its advertising is inspirational. This is because there’s a gap between what the company is saying and what the company is doing. The company is no longer perceived to be authentic. To benefit from the trust premium, words and actions have to match. It’s critical that B2B service providers don’t just talk the talk through branding and marketing, but walk the walk through what they deliver to their customers.