The consumer services sector, including hotels, bars, restaurants, travel and leisure, has seen its fortunes improve recently, with the sector seeing its strongest performance in over a decade according to CBI figures. As the economy recovers and consumer confidence increases, this sector is only set to grow, with an increase in demand for new services. However, businesses within this sector should not take their position for granted.

In a world where consumers can go online and easily search for alternatives, it is essential that businesses improve their reputations to ensure customers keep coming back for more. By providing a service that consumers can trust, businesses can safeguard their customer base and provide a solid grounding to help them to grow.

In a climate where new innovations in the market, particularly in the online and mobile space, are increasingly enticing customers from existing providers, this is more important than ever. Uber has quickly been able to spread to, and in many cases dominate the taxi market in a number of cities, by providing a quick and reliable service that thrives on customer feedback. As customers are able to rate drivers once the journey is over, they can be sure that the company is listening, while providing the ability to quickly find and resolve problems. As new start-ups are increasingly using similar tactics in industries containing everything from restaurants to private jets, there will be increasingly fierce battle to ensure customers remain faithful. In order retain their customers, businesses will need to open a dialogue and constantly find ways to build their level of trust.

Currency of Trust

For industries that rely on providing consumer services to keep customers engaged, it is essential that each point of customer contact is up to the required standard. If one part of the chain is flawed, this has the potential to tarnish the whole brand, losing both the individual and their circle of influence for the foreseeable future.

In order to identify and solve customer experience issues before they escalate, service providers must begin by asking their customers for feedback through every channel possible, including online reviews, surveys and social media in order to understand their needs and opinions. By doing so, they can demonstrate how they value customer opinion, while being able to identify any flaws in businesses processes long before they have made an impact on the bottom line.

However, trust is not purely a tool for customer retention. As stats by Gartner have shown, in most businesses, 80 per cent of its revenue comes from 20 per cent of its existing customers. By building trust with an existing customer base, this leaves great opportunities for organic growth. By using feedback from customers to find improvements, this also presents opportunities to monetise additional services.

Creating fans

Along with collecting and making use of feedback, it is essential to also share this insight with both new and existing customers. People already like to share their thoughts and feelings about companies online, regardless of whether they’ve been asked to by the business. Therefore, rather than trying to fight this, companies should look to provide a platform for customer reviews to be hosted and shared online. This way, positive comments can be used to entice customers while encouraging existing customers to shop there again.

Just as a young person might choose their football team based on the influence of friends and family, consumers are equally as influenced with regards to the businesses they choose to interact with. As each fan of a business have people that will openly trust their opinion, they can become part of a business’s most valuable assets.

Be transparent

In order for consumers to trust businesses completely, it is essential that they are given the whole picture. As a result, this means it is equally essential to display negative feedback as it is to display the positives. Not only does this provide a more believable scenario for today’s internet savvy consumer, but it also provides a reassurance to consumers that what they see is what they get.

Moreover, negative feedback can actually be one of the most effective customer retention tools. If appropriate, responding to a customer complaint publicly, either on social media or via an online review platform, in a friendly, personalised and even humorous way allows you to openly demonstrate your customer service credentials to the individual involved while also confirming to new customers that you’re a company that considers and welcomes their feedback.

Putting your trust in trust

In the busy online marketplace, where buying anxiety is common and opinions spread like wildfire, trust is everything. Although differences in price, features and appearance might set businesses apart, it is ultimately trust and customer experience that form the cornerstone of business success. By using customer feedback to improve the business, establish trust and create brand advocates, consumer service providers can ensure that their customers stay loyal.

By James Westlake, VP Trustpilot UK