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This is a guest post by Jon Collins of Inter Orbis, a consulting firm set up to investigate, analyse and document the impact technology is having on business, society and culture.

It can be difficult to place a value on trust, yet it is undoubtedly linked to good business. If a person is confident of a good customer experience before picking up the phone, then the chances of the call going well are increased; conversely, we have hard evidence that customers who lack trust in an organisation will be less likely to be satisfied at the end of a call.

The result can be a self-reinforcing, potentially downward cycle, particularly if a problem is not resolved to a customer's satisfaction. In which case, one call can lead to a second, more disgruntled conversation than the first. In today's hyper-connected world, unhappy customers are quick to tell each other about bad experiences, further exacerbating the problem.

Furthermore, as no organisation acts in isolation, adverse effects can ripple down the supply chain. For organisations heavily dependent on pools of suppliers, in retail, media, manufacturing and other sectors, the task can sometimes be shielding their own customers from the inadequacies of their suppliers. Supplier failure to deliver on time, or to respond to a query, or escalate a problem effectively can all have a knock-on effect down the line.

Like other intangibles, there is no such thing as a specific level of trust - and neither will a company’s own customers just walk away at the first sign of bad service. Trust is like a saucer spinning on a stick however - let it slow too far and it will topple. Against this background, the contact centre has a pretty central role – not only in maintaining trust between an organisation and its customers, it can act as a barometer for whether an organisation's efforts are hitting the mark.

Given its prominence, it is worth recognising that the components of the contact centre also have an influence on how a company is perceived. Customers don't distinguish poor service from inefficient contact centre processes, or inadequate, unreliable systems. From the caller's perspective the contact centre is the company: confidence in one and trust in the other are inextricably linked.

Ultimately, all parts of the story – from suppliers through to customers – are connected, and weaknesses in any area can have an impact on trust. While you might not be able to control all elements, you can nonetheless ensure that the elements under your control are helping, rather than hindering customer expectations. Not least of course the contact centre, which, for many companies, is the only element many customers will ever experience directly.

Do you measure trust in your customer base? Do you feel you work in a trustworthy industry?

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About Jon Collins

Jon Collins is principal advisor at Inter Orbis. With over 20 years’ background in the technology industry, Jon has a deep understanding of the global technology infrastructures, architectures, security and governance models required, as well as hands-on experience of delivery in a variety of sectors. Jon is co-author of The Technology Garden, offering clear advice on sustainable IT delivery. He has written numerous papers and guides about getting the most out of technology, and is an accomplished speaker, facilitator and presenter.

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