When my baby girl was born last year, we ordered a popular smart sock to give us peace of mind at night while she slept. About six months after we began using it, the battery started to malfunction. It wasn’t holding a charge long enough to get through the night.

The company had clearly put a lot of thought into their customer experience because the app I used on my phone to connect to the sock device had all the help content I needed to troubleshoot the problem on my own — step-by-step instructions and visuals. And when I still had trouble, the app connected me directly to a customer service rep, who put a new device in the mail for me that day.

Even though the device malfunctioned, I didn’t lose trust in the brand because they made me feel supported every step of the way.

As Donald Porter, V.P. of British Airways once said, “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.”

Did my experience with the smart sock go off without a hitch? Nope. But thanks to the experience I had while troubleshooting, I would have no qualms about recommending the company to others who value my word. I trust that the company would take good care of my people if there were any issues, because they provided excellent service to me.

Trust and the customer experience are intricately linked — and today they impact a brand’s success more than almost anything else.

Trust and the Customer Experience

We recently wrote about trust in content marketing and how trust must be baked into your content strategy and every piece of content you write. It’s also crucial in the customer experience because we know people prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust.

Unfortunately, many marketers view trust as another manipulation tactic. They understand that if they build customer trust they’ll get higher ROI on marketing activities and drive more revenue for the company — and while those are good things to shoot for as a marketer, they forget that building trust is just the right thing to do.

Even for B2B companies, at the end of the day, customers are human beings with human needs and worries. Trust can go a long way to establishing a customer relationship that can withstand the ups and downs that every company is experiencing right now with the COVID crisis, and will likely continue to experience for the next year or so as we figure out our new normal.

Some companies are starting to get it. They view trust through the lens of customer relationship instead of seeing it as a marketing tactic.

The software company Aha!, for example, grounds its customer experience in The Responsive Method, principles that define how the company serves customers and employees. Co-founder and CEO of Aha! Brian DeHaaff writes about the company’s unique philosophy of love and loyalty in the book, Lovability: How to Build a Business That People Love and Be Happy Doing It.

Pursuing the lovability the book describes results in customer loyalty (and ultimately success). It’s a call to “get back to basics” and do business like our grandparents did — build companies on solid products and create customer value. When you start with a genuine human-centered approach, the result is a positive customer experience, and ultimately greater success.

Customer experience is the impression and perception of your brand your customers have throughout the buyer’s journey. And the journey doesn’t end at the purchase point.

If you look at current studies like the Customer Experience Trends Report from Acquia, brands have a lot of work to do when it comes to improving their customer experience. While 82% of marketers believe their brands are delivering on customer expectations, only 10% of customers would agree that they are getting a good experience.

No End to the Buyer’s Journey

One way to address this disconnect is to consider every stage of the buyer’s journey — including the ongoing relationship you have with customers.

Human beings change and evolve. You must constantly reengage with your customers and ask them what their problems are and what solutions they’re seeking — because if you’re not having those conversations, at some point what you know about your customers is going to be wrong.

There are multiple “moments that matter” in the buyer’s journey according to KPMG’s Global Customer Experience report, but you’ll notice that the last two stages aren’t really moments at all …

1. Pre-purchase

In this important “wooing” stage, brands should communicate what they stand for, bolster their reputations and show competency.

2. Purchase

Brands have the opportunity to personalize the offering to the customer’s strategic needs during this stage.

3. Immediate post-purchase

Here is where brands can deliver on their brand promise and customer expectations, and make things easy.

4. Ongoing

Through emotionally intelligent responsiveness, brands should anticipate issues, respond to changes, and be present (not merely transactional).

5. Renew/dissolve

This is an opportunity to become indispensable to your customer and make it easy for them to renew your services. This stage will come up again and again for many reasons — because their service or subscription period is about to end, their product model is becoming outdated, they don’t need the product/service anymore, there are new solutions on the market, etc.

After a recent visit to the dentist, I experienced a “moment that matters” from the dentist’s office that showed attention to the Ongoing phase of the buyer’s journey.

When I got home from the appointment there was an email in my inbox from the receptionist. She had put the wrong name on the receipt she handed me. Since she wanted to make sure I had an accurate copy with my name on it she proactively emailed me a copy of the updated receipt. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the discrepancy (I’m not in the habit of reviewing receipts from my dentist), but the fact that she noticed it, immediately corrected it, and brought it to my attention was really impressive. I felt like if I had any trouble in the future, that dentist’s office would go the distance to fix things for me.

When you focus on the customer experience at every stage, what are you also building? You got it. Trust! The foundation of good customer experience is trust.

Reality Check: How’s Your Customer Experience?

The Edelman Trust Management barometer found that ethical factors such as purpose, dependability and integrity drive 76% of the trust capital of business; competence drives only 24%.

How do you think your customers perceive your company? Do they trust you?

It’s time to take an objective look at your customer experience and view it from the vantage point of your customers.

When you consider that PwC found 32% of consumers surveyed would walk away from a brand they love after just ONE bad experience, you can understand the urgency of trust and building a customer experience that can withstand challenges.

Customer loyalty is not based on price or product any longer. It’s based on the customer experience and the trust your customers have in your company. In our “everything as a service” economy, you must be intentional with the customer experience you create.