Significant Disconnect Exists Between Consumers and Business Leaders on Issues of Trust

Leaders Tend to Overestimate Consumer Confidence Levels, While Reality Is Much Starker

A new joint report by Deloitte Digital and Twilio shows that a significant chasm exits between consumers and US business leaders when it comes to trust, with many leaders overly confident about the extent of customer trust in their brands.

The Close the Trust Gap report explains that trust is the deciding factor among consumers in differentiating a business from its competition. Not only can trust help bring in customers, the report notes, but it can also keep customers, reducing churn and lowering acquisition costs.

“There has never been a more important moment for brands to get it right when it comes to trust,” added John Peto, US head of Deloitte Digital and principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “This report makes it clear that the organizations who rest on their laurels or continue with a business-as-usual approach will be leaving immense value on the table, while those that align their approach with the trust signals of their core audience will likely benefit both now and in the future.”

The report begins by defining the four elements of trust—humanity, transparency, capability, and reliability—and then dives into actionable insights, including the sampling below.

The impact of trust is quantifiable, the research shows. The majority of respondents (68%) spent more on a trusted brand compared to a brand they use but trust less. On average, consumers spend 25% more money on trusted brands.

Brands are not as trusted as their leaders think. While 79% of business leaders think their customers have somewhat high or very high trust in their brands, only 52% of consumers report feeling those levels of trust in brands.

Consumers define the building blocks of trust differently from that of leaders. Nearly three in four consumers say quality products or services (72%) and fair prices (73%) are critical to building their trust in a brand. In comparison, just 38% of leaders cite fair prices as central to building trust, and only 57% recognize the critical importance of quality products or services.

Leaders are misaligned with consumer preferences on how to rebuild trust after it is damaged. Brand leaders rank “provide outstanding customer service” and “communicate proactively about the problem and the resolution” as the most important ways to rebuild trust. However, the three most important actions for consumers are providing refunds, offering replacements or exchanges, and admitting the mistake and apologizing.

When the right actions are taken, consumers are willing to forgive mistakes, both simple and significant. On average, consumers will accept three mistakes from a brand before losing trust, but only if the mistakes are resolved to their satisfaction and not repeated. “Businesses have been forced to reevaluate how they build and maintain relationships with their customers in a digital-first world,” said Glenn Weinstein, chief customer officer at Twilio. “With so many digital interactions between businesses and customers, there are more opportunities to strengthen or damage customer trust at every touchpoint. Our research…shows some tangible ways to deepen relationships by building trust in the ways that matter most to customers.”

Conducted in the summer of 2021 by Lawless Research, the joint report surveyed 1,000 consumers and 500 leaders of large, business-to-consumer (B2C) enterprises in the US about the business value of trust and the key factors that contribute to a brand’s trustworthiness. The research was commissioned by Deloitte Digital, which drew from years of experience helping clients assess, prepare, and implement digital innovations; and by Twilio, which deployed its customer engagement platform to provide experience and leading practices for the report’s development and findings.

Author Information

Alex is responsible for writing about trends and changes that are impacting the customer experience market. He had served as Principal Editor at Village Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based consultancy on technology impacting healthcare and healthcare-related industries. Alex was also Associate Director for Content Management at Omdia and Informa Tech, where he produced white papers, executive summaries, market insights, blogs, and other key content assets. His areas of coverage spanned the sectors grouped under the technology vertical, including semiconductors, smart technologies, enterprise & IT, media, displays, mobile, power, healthcare, China research, industrial and IoT, automotive, and transformative technologies.

At IHS Markit, he was Managing Editor of the company’s flagship IHS Quarterly, covering aerospace & defense, economics & country risk, chemicals, oil & gas, and other IHS verticals. He was Principal Editor of analyst output at iSuppli Corp. and Managing Editor of Market Watch, a fortnightly newsletter highlighting significant analyst report findings for pitching to the media. He started his career in writing as an Editor-Reporter for The Associated Press.


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