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Global Practices

Engagement Attributes: The Fastest Path to Trust-Building

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We know from the Edelman Trust Barometer findings that there are 16 specific attributes that deepen trust in companies.

The cluster of four attributes Edelman calls the “Engagement” cluster warrants the attention of every business because it includes the behaviors that stakeholders say are among the most important to deepening their trust. Respondents also believe business is falling shortest there.

The “engagement” behaviors your stakeholders want to see include:

  • Listening to customer needs and feedback
  • Treating employees well
  • Placing customers ahead of profits (read: you can’t just listen to them; you have to act)
  • Communicating frequently and honestly on the state of its business

Most companies feel that they’re doing a fine job with these. But we clearly need to do them a little more overtly, a little more deeply perhaps and certainly more transparently.

One consolation to stepping up to these activities is that they all have residual benefits to the company’s business strategy in addition to the deepened trust of your circle of influence. Surely your enterprise will benefit from drawing closer to customers’ insights and needs. Satisfied employees pay dividends in hard and loyal work, plus lower turnover costs. And communicating with transparency might be uncomfortable, but it is not inherently expensive or difficult, and resultant understanding of management’s vision and standards will help further align the organization to deliver on the mission.

Tactically, there is a bounty of proven legacy approaches – and new tech-enabled ones – to help create and amplify trust-building programs:

  • Customer care and feedback channels are multiplied by social and digital media. For example, Twitter-based help lines recently have helped some companies facilitate customer engagement and earn trust-enhancing buzz for customer service innovation.
  • Consider convening customer panels to gain insights and to allow your customers to network with each other. This dialogue can be hosted on-line, off-line and shared cost-effectively. Public updates of key outcomes broaden awareness of your customer prioritization.
  • Transparency about your employee care – and their feedback – will earn you trust points. Since unhappy employees complain online anyway, you might as well be the one to unveil your employee strategies, to drive dialogue and earn internal and external trust. While you’re at it, those “Best Places to Work” awards are worth the effort; winning these awards provides invaluable third-party credibility and opens the door for potential employee attraction.
  • Employee education and wellness efforts repeatedly return dividends in an educated, healthy workforce as well as broader awareness of how your company values its human capital.

Increased trust is a business imperative. Stakeholders have told us what’s lacking. And our delivery options are endless.

What are we waiting for?

Patty Tucker is  executive vice president and senior counselor in Edelman’s U.S. Corporate Practice.

Image by Pia Kristine.
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