The breakdown of trust impacts the lives of millions every day. It disrupts efforts to conduct business and to communicate at all levels-personally, locally, nationally and globally. Whether an online presence is intended to build awareness, educate, encourage the sharing of information or promote a product, trust is a key component to success.
Trust, or lack of trust, drives both behavior and the sharing of information and will measurably influence a credit union's bottom line.
Once a breakdown in trust has occurred, how does a credit union restore it? Restoring trust is a proactive process that changes the behaviors that created the low-trust situation. This process can be applied to the entire interactive landscape, including websites, applications, mobile devices and social media. Here are a few key steps to consider when restoring online trust.
Identify the key circumstances that led to a breakdown in trust. Answer as specifically as possible the question, "What happened?" This step is about honestly evaluating a situation; it is not about blaming, making excuses or defending.
For example, a credit union gets regular complaints about its member service. While the credit union promises reliable courtesy, personalized service and active community involvement, members do not experience any of this when they are online. They criticize the credit unions emphasis on selling financial products and services without showing much interest in member needs. In this case, a breakdown in trust is caused by the failure to fulfill a service promise.
To restore trust with members, this credit union needs to both address its own problems and go the extra distance to take into account the low-trust condition throughout the industry.
Create a plan to change the behaviors that led to the breakdown in trust. This is about who will do what differently and when they will do it.
The credit union must go back to its promise: reliable courtesy, personalized service and active community involvement. A plan is created to restore online trust through a renewed commitment to excellent service. The plan might include a redesign of the website to be more user-friendly, to highlight personalized services, and to report on how the credit union is participating in the local community.
Communicate the plan to those who are experiencing low trust. This step may include acknowledging errors and apologizing for mistakes that contributed to the breakdown in trust. The credit union in our example acknowledges the complaints and commits to doing a better job with member service.
Encourage comments and feedback. The credit union develops a live chat room on its website, a live webinar series or a dedicated member service line to gather feedback and ideas from members, prospective members and community at large. Credit unions representatives are trained to genuinely demonstrate the reliable courtesy that delivers on their promise.
Take the necessary steps to execute the plan. Clear communications across all channels are important, but they will only hold-up if they are followed with specific and measurable actions. Key changes can be implemented in any or all of the five elements of online experiences-content, information architecture, interactivity, visual design and functionality. The credit union needs to carry-out its plan and make the timeframe known.
Communicate progress of the plan with consistency and reliability. Consistency and reliability are critical to restoring trust. While members may be suspicious at first ("Is this just another marketing strategy?"), consistent behavior demonstrates that a commitment to improve or solve a problem is being taken seriously. Gradually, suspicion gives way to caution, and then changes to trust and loyalty as members and prospective members see a sustained commitment to reliably follow through on promises.
In a world where low-trust permeates the marketplace, it is easy to call this condition normal and not do much about it. As challenging as restoring trust can be, the current climate calls for all financial institutions-not just credit unions-to actively look for opportunities to build and restore trust.
Jonathon Hensley is CEO and lead market strategist at Emerge Interactive. He can be reached at 503-922-3483 ext. 101 or Jon@emergeinteractive.com