Spotlight on Jane Hillsdon: It’s a Matter of Trust

Jane Hillsdon FAMI CPM asks, “Can marketing help to restore trust in organisations such as banks and financial institutions, in the wake of the Banking Royal Commission?”

This is the question posed to a panel of branding heavyweights; Lynda Cavalera, Mike Daniels and Patrick Southam at the recent Australian Marketing Institute Sunset Marketing event.

Panel facilitator Dominic Brandon; Head of Marketing at Zurich General Insurance, challenged the panel with a series of questions to help unpack the necessary steps that banks and financial institutions need to take to help restore trust in an industry that has been so publicly discredited.

Instead, the panel conversation revealed an altogether different angle that begged the question, is marketing really in a position to restore consumer trust or for that matter, instill it in the first place?

The discussion engaged us to all think at a much higher and more strategic level and not rely solely on marketing to solve the issue of trust.

And while it may not be within our bally wick as marketers to solely instill customer trust, we can certainly help inspire deeper relationships with our customers.

But first, the panel suggested, we need to ask ourselves some key questions.

  1. What does trust mean?

Panel member Mike Daniels is Founder of The Behavioural Architects and specialises in brand strategy and identity. He believes that firstly we need to clarify exactly what it is that we mean by trust?

“If we, as marketers, need to establish a measurable objective around building trust – we need to define what that would be.”

“What outcomes are we hoping to achieve by building trust?”

What customer behaviour do we measure as a business to establish if we have achieved more trust? Is it being more liked? Is it an increased number of product sales? Is it a deeper relationship with our customers?

Lynda Cavalera is the AMI Board Directors Chair. She has over twenty years of experience in the insurance, banking and financial services industry and espouses that it’s unrealistic to solely rely on marketing to build trust.

“Trust is built on a response to someone’s actions. If brands want to be trusted, then they need to behave in trustworthy ways.”

“Marketing’s job is to shine a light on the organisation for what it is. If the marketing department are promising one thing and the organisation then delivers an experience that contradicts that promise, this will result in a lack of trust.”

  1. How can we influence corporate culture?

Lynda suggested that organisational values need to be aligned with those of the customer.  Then the whole organisation needs to be willing and able to walk the talk.

Historically banks have held KPI’s that focus on delivering results for shareholders. As a result, they reward behaviour that encourages transactions.

To shift the company culture to one that prioritises customer and community relationships, the culture and focus for these institutions will have to evolve.

To influence this shift Lynda urged us marketers to ensure that we have a seat at the boardroom table in the executive meetings that these strategic decisions are being made.

We need to encourage business strategy to closely consider the promises it makes to its customers and the potential consequences of a disconnect between the promise communicated via marketing and what the customer ultimately experiences.

Mike concurs.

“Any organisation who promotes lofty, grandiose promises that they can’t deliver on in this environment is fundamentally doomed.”

Patrick  Southam is Partner at PR Agency; Reputation Edge. He recommends that marketers stand to not only be the stewards of the company’s brand, but to also be the stewards of the customer.

To do this, Lynda emphasises the importance that businesses place on collecting the right type of customer information.

Customer satisfaction metrics alone rarely provide the full story. While the number of customer complaints an organisation may appear insignificant, Lynda suggests that further investigation into these could lead to valuable customer insight.

“By creating customer stories around complaints, it allows you to bring potential pain points to life,” she says. “These tips of the icebergs potentially represent more customers viewpoints than you think and give your organisation the opportunity to solve real problems.”

  1. What happens if nothing changes?

It’s easy to get the impression that in fact, banks and other affected financial institutions have actually not addressed the issue of broken trust in the slightest since the announcement of the Hayne Royal Commission.

The big four banks currently hold 80% market share. And let’s face it, as consumers, it’s a pain in the bum to change banks, so we are unlikely to shift our behaviour over these findings.

This makes it really easy for the banks to not address any bad behaviour, let alone adjust any marketing messages.

But we all know what happens to industries that wallow in arrogance and complacency.

Millennial customers driven by morals and ethics are demanding a new bar be set and the transactional element of a purchase is of little importance to them. They resonate with brands they can aspire to, brands that focus on building a tribe, brands that deliver more than just a product with features. You know, brands like Apple.

With the release of a credit card earlier this year, I’d imagine Apple has fired off the first warning shot to an industry that sits ripe for disruption.

Banks, be complacent at your peril.

So marketers, while we may not be directly capable of reinstating trust into a broken brand, by sitting at the Boardroom table and stewarding the customer we can certainly influence how we move our businesses forward.

Building consumer trust lies in the responsibility of every person within an organisation. It’s a collaborative effort that is driven out of a motivation to do better business.

This article was contributed by Jane Hillsdon FAMI CPM.

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