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How Brands can Build Trust in the Middle of a Crisis

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Ten seconds. Sometimes that’s all you get.

That’s how long some people spend pondering a purchasing decision before pulling the trigger. Even under normal circumstances, making an impression in that timeframe can be a challenge. Brand loyalty doesn’t happen during 10-second snap decisions. Loyalty is built, instead, on powerful, positive experiences and feelings that help customers know upon whom they can rely.

A global pandemic can make it difficult for businesses—both large and small—to provide those unforgettable experiences. Brands have to be creative to figure out how they fit into a crisis that has affected both customers’ confidence and financial stability. But it is a crisis that offers brands the opportunity to leave their customers with the most important feeling they can create: trust.

Just like people, even the most carefully-cultivated brands will show their true colors during challenging moments. If brands can prove themselves trustworthy—even during adversity—that memory will outlive any virus.

But how do brands establish that trust?

In mid-March, Qualtrics asked over 1,000 consumers in the United States what brands need to do to build and maintain trust with customers and employees. Respondents said the most important thing a brand can do is avoid taking advantage of a crisis to maximize profits. Instead, people most want to see brands focus on the well-being of their customers and employees.

Looking after employees

Almost half (48%) of all respondents said they trust brands more when they know the brand is taking care of their employees, and 54% said they’re concerned about how brands are treating their employees during this crisis.

As companies contemplate returning to the office, they should take into consideration how comfortable their employees are with the idea.

A Qualtrics study of more than 2,000 Americans found that two out of three workers said they would be uncomfortable going back to the workplace right now and would feel most comfortable once public officials give them the all-clear. Nearly 70%, though, said they trust their company leadership to make the best decision on when employees should return to work.

But once company leadership makes that decision, most employees expect them to take action to keep everyone safe. A vast majority of respondents said they want their workplaces thoroughly and regularly cleaned and disinfected, and they want to see hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies available at all times.

More than 60% said they want to see social distancing enforced at work, while nearly the same amount said they want all employees to wear masks. Others hope additional safety measures will be implemented, like a “no handshakes or hugs” policy or more flexible sick leave.

Brands that want to build and maintain trust with consumers will listen carefully to what their employees want and need. After all, employees are every brand’s best ambassadors. Trust your workers, and they’ll cultivate trust in your brand.

Taking care of the customers

Since the pandemic hit, businesses have been looking for creative ways to meet customer needs, while balancing the realities brought on by the crisis.

In response to challenges facing their customers, GoDaddy—which hosts more internet domains than any other provider in the world—rolled out OpenWeStand.org, with resources from partners like GoFundMe, Slack, PayPal, Salesforce, and others that were there to help small businesses during the crisis.

During the first week, the site was live, thousands of GoDaddy customers took advantage of the free resources—all of which were based on customer feedback. The company was able to listen to the needs of their customers and take quick action to help, instilling trust in their brand.

Now as restaurants, gyms, retail stores, and other businesses look to reopen, customers are still hesitant to get back to the way things were. This is true for brands across a variety of industries: Nearly 80% say they’d be uncomfortable going to a live event, about 70% say they’d be uncomfortable going to the gym or a restaurant, while more than half would be uncomfortable shopping at a retail store.

With so much anxiety, how do brands take care of their customers and create a feeling of safety and connection that consumers will forever associate with the brand?

Nearly 63% of respondents said they wouldn’t feel comfortable patronizing businesses until public health officials say it’s safe to do so, a stat which brands should keep in mind while deciding when to reopen.

And once they do reopen, customers want to see further safety precautions. At live events, for example, respondents to Qualtrics’ study said they’d feel more confident returning to watch their favorite sports team or band if social distancing were enforced, masks were mandatory, and assigned seating kept attendees at a safe distance.

At restaurants, diners want to see tables separated at a safe distance, social distancing enforced, and servers and staff wearing gloves and masks. Gyms and retail stores should also consider devising systems that ensure social distancing, require customers to wear masks, and check temperatures at the door.

Companies, and their brands, will be judged by how they respond to this crisis. Brands that listen to and act on their customers’ and employees’ needs rather than making assumptions about what those should be will come through this crisis stronger and more trustworthy.

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