A New Era of Customer Service is Coming
(and it's not what you think)
A new era of customer service – and customer experience – is beginning to materialize around us, and it’s going to play a large role in the success and competitiveness of both individuals and companies.
A fundamental shift in our understanding of customers
This isn’t about A.I platforms like ChatGPT or any of the other technologies that are changing how we will interact with customers. The shift I’m referring to is at a more foundational level – our understanding of customers themselves. More specifically, our understanding of what customers want.
What is the one common thing organizations can deliver that will drive customer loyalty? Is there a universal ideal outcome for the customer experiences we provide?
There has been a lot of debate on this over the years. Some experts say customers want organizations and individuals that care. Others say the common denominator is value. Still others argue customers want friction-free experiences. The evidence, however, suggests that none of these, on their own, work as a customer experience North Star.
The customer experience North Star is Trust
The conversations around the importance of trust in customer experience have been building for some time and it is now abundantly clear that Trust is the overriding factor in customer decisions and customer loyalty. The research and evidence of the causal relationship has been confirmed repeatedly, and trust is just now beginning to seep into company mission statements and customer experience mandates.
What is Trust?
The term trust, on the surface, is somewhat amorphous. For most people, it’s a visceral feeling we get, and we often can’t put our fingers on why. Because of this, it’s been hard for organizations to incorporate it in a meaningful way. We can say “We want customers to trust us,” but what actions do we need to take to create it?
What creates Trust?
It turns out that the answer to what creates trust? has been around for a while. In 1995 the seminal work by researchers Mayer, Davis (University of Notre Dame) and Schoorman (Purdue) identified three clear components of trust: ability, benevolence, and integrity. These labels, translated to an organizational and customer experience framework can be referred to as Caring, Competence and Integrity.
The 3 new CX targets: Caring, Competence and Integrity
Intuitively, these three components of trust make sense when it comes to customer service. If you believe that employees consistently and genuinely care about you and your best interests, that they are knowledgeable and skilled, and that they will take ownership over situations with your best interests in mind, you begin to trust them. That is the level of trust that leads to loyalty.
These same three pillars of trust work in the broader CX context, and are the antecedent to common measurements like Net Promoter Score and Customer Satisfaction. The scores in each are ultimately reflections of the degree of caring, competency and integrity a customer perceives.
Organizations need to start thinking about Trust-Based Service
The good news about this new era we are entering is that many of the existing CX and customer service practices you may have in place are still valid under the lens of trust. But companies and CX leaders will still have some re-examining and tweaking to do to make sure that all of the messaging is supporting the three pillars.
From a customer service perspective, it will be important that all customer-facing employees understand the concepts of caring, competency and integrity. Customer service training will have to be adjusted to support this, as will the focus of manager coaching.
Trust-based service and experience is still relatively new, but its roots in the well-documented path to customer loyalty suggest it will continue to grow rapidly. The best part, perhaps, is that its hard to imagine a downside to a focus on trust.