3 Ways You’re Breaking Your Customers’ Trust

The weight of building a trusted brand often falls on marketers’ shoulders. But Lisa Joy Rosner, CMO of real-time insights and analysis provider Neustar, argues that this task should be a company-wide effort.

“In the age of the customer, brand building hinges on becoming a customer-focused company,” she says. “This means that you have to break down the silos and rally the whole organization. Sales and marketing can no longer be solely responsible for acquisition and service, and support should no longer be solely responsible for retention and satisfaction. Everyone needs to share responsibility for the customer experience.”

Actually, new data from Neustar and the Ponemon Institute suggests that failing to take a synchronized approach across an organization can result in customers having trust issues with that company. Based on the two organizations’ “What Erodes Trust in Digital Brands” study, here are the three areas that cause customers to lose faith in an organization.


Customers expect brands to provide them with the most accurate and up-to-date information about their companies and products. Missing the mark, however, can cause customers’ trust to waver. Consider the following data from the study: 91% of the more than 750 U.S. adults surveyed say they don’t trust websites that contain errors. In addition, 55% of respondents say they dislike ads that interfere with content.

To produce better content, Rosner recommends focusing on the audience first before doing any writing.

“Your audience cares less about your messages; they are more interested in your point of view,” she notes. “Great content should inspire, educate, and entertain.” 

She also encourages professionals to pay attention to detail and be willing to experiment with different forms of ads and content. If mistakes do happen, employees should focus less on pointing the finger of blame and concentrate more on correcting the typos. “The customer experience is what matters,” she says, “so there should be no shaming of teams, but rather just fixing the errors.”


A brand’s website performance can be a telltale sign of how the company performs in the eyes of the customer. Eighty-eight percent of respondents distrust websites that frequently go down, and 67% feel uneasy about websites that take too long to load. In fact, 78% of U.S. adults surveyed worry about a site’s security when performance is slothful. 

Checkout is one place, in particular, where customers want a quick and easy experience. According to the study, 40% of respondents express the most concern when site performance is sluggish there. Actually, respondents say a speedy checkout is approximately two times more important than quick navigation to another Web page (41% versus 23%) and nearly three times more important than accessing the homepage (41% versus 16%).  

But customers tend to be more forgiving of certain industries over others. For instance, 79% of respondents are willing to wait an additional five seconds for a government services website to load, but only 6% are willing to do the same for a social media site. Likewise, about half of respondents will wait a few extra seconds for a financial services (50%) or education site (49%) to render; however, just 12 and 10% will wait for e-commerce and entertainment sites, respectively.

“Performance is all about meeting consumer expectations,” Rosner says, “and for some industries, consumers are more forgiving.”


Data breaches can be devastating for brands and customers, especially when it comes to customer trust. According to the study, 63% of respondents don’t trust the websites of companies that have experienced a data breach. Furthermore, one third of respondents say it took them six months to a year to view a brand in a positive light after a data breach—and about one quarter (24%) don’t get over it at all.

“Brands that are transparent about what happened and what they’re doing to fix it so that it never happens again fare better than brands that attempt to whitewash or minimize a breach,” Rosner says. “Today’s consumers reward transparency.”

The best way to handle data breaches is to prepare for them long before they happen, she says, such as by implementing protective services and having policies and plans in place for how to handle a hack if it does happen. Customers expect brands to take all of the necessary precautions, too. More than half of respondents (55%) distrust websites that don’t have security safeguards, such as two-factor authentication, according to the study. In fact, less than one quarter dislike “cumbersome” security requirements (24%) or pop-up warnings about a website’s level of security (17%).

Another way for brands to prove their ability to protect customers’ data is by paying attention to people’s privacy preferences. Consider the following data from the study: 22% of respondents dislike the inability to stop being tracked and 19% don’t like it when websites request too much personal information. What’s more, 10% of customers don’t approve of the inability to erase or edit information already provided.

How to build back the trust

OK, so a brand has broken its customers’ trust. Now what? Rosner says it may not be too late to win them back—if they act wisely.

“Building a great customer experience is not about talk, it’s about action,” she says. “The best thing brands can do is fix the problem so that these glitches don’t happen.”

Indeed, building trust is not a campaign initiative or a PR stunt, Rosner says; it’s proof that the company is solving the problem at hand.  “An actual improvement in the customer experience is more important than a press release or letter from the CEO,” she continues.

To determine whether they’re actually gaining their customers’ trust back, organizations can track satisfaction metrics such as Net Promoter Scores and analyze qualitative insight (e.g. by contacting dissatisfied customers), she says.

But how can professionals ensure that this trust isn’t lost in the first place? Think simplicity.

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” Rosner warns. “Think about some start-ups that have built great customer experiences into their apps and sites from the very beginning. They tended to start small by doing one or two things very well. Whether it’s ordering a cab or car service or investing in mutual funds, the simpler the experience the more trusting your customers will be.”

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