6 Reasons Your Customers Don't Trust You

Brian Cantor

Speaking to a crowd certainly familiar with customer skepticism, Barclaycard Head of Customer Experience Doug Villone cracked, "People trust strangers more than they do the banks in which they invest their savings."

Banking products typically represent the most significant and personal investments customers will make, and yet they do not even garner as much consumer faith as offerings from gum and cereal companies. Customers invest and purchase banking services because they have to, but rarely are they fully confident in and satisfied with the experiences they receive.

The inevitability of using banking services will indeed compel customers to overlook that disappointment, but it will also curb their loyalty and willingness to invest more into the brand. No matter the necessity of some products, there eventually will come a point at which the customer has a legitimate choice about whether or not to continue purchasing. That is when trust and loyalty begin to mean everything.

While it would be easy to point fingers at the recent mortgage and financial crises, Villone, the keynote presenter at the Call Center IQ CX for Financial Services & Banking Summit, recognizes that his industry’s ongoing trust issues are much more deeply-rooted. Specific scandals and incidents might have made the spotlight brighter, but they are not the reason customers are unimpressed by the brands with whom they invest money.


There are, however, six fundamental reasons for customer distrust. Though Villone’s perspective is that of a financial customer experience leader, his list has relevance for professionals in any customer-facing business.

Poor customer service – Because no organization is exempt from difficulty, there will come a point at which customer service needs to step in to rectify issues. If the agents are not up to the task of turning customer frustration into customer satisfaction, they will serve to only exacerbate the problem. Customers can forgive mistakes, but they are far less inclined to forget indifferent or negative service experiences.

Significant Complexity & Lack of Transparency – Every element of a good or service should provide value for the customer, and as long as that is true, there is no reason for the brand to hide anything about its consumption. When brands make it difficult for the customer to precisely discern what he is purchasing and how that purchase will impact him, they prompt the customer to question whether he is truly getting the product for which he thought he was paying. Driving a customer to that sort of questioning is not a great first step in building trust.

Unreasonable & Punitive Fees – If the organization is in the business of satisfying customers, why exactly would it feel the need to bombard customers with fees? Should not the brand instead be looking for ways to maximize value (and minimize costs) for the customer? The marketplace desires a streamlined, customer-centric experience, and when brands implement unexpected fees—especially those of the punitive sort, such as charging surprise "late fees" or jacking up interest rates—they reveal how uncommitted they are to that marketplace objective. If a brand is actively seizing opportunities to penalize customers, can it really be trusted to act wholly in their best interest?

Bad or Unnecessary Products – When a brand introduces a product, it wants to sell that product. That process entails pushing new and existing customers to spend their money in exchange for a promise of quality and value. If the product fails to deliver on either tenet of that promise, it irreparably damages the trust between itself and customers. It sends the message that it can and will stop short of building its brand precisely around customer need and want, and once that message is sent, customers will proceed with significant caution.

Executive Compensation – While lavish bonuses and compensation brought particular vitriol towards banking executives, all businesses are subject to scrutiny when there appears to be a gap between the C-level and the mid-level employees to whom customers are more likely to relate. Customers generally accept economic reality and realize that businesses have to generate process, but pricing increases and service declines become harder to stomach when executives continue to accept millions in compensation to help cover the costs of glamorous trips around the world.

Corporate Irresponsibility – Beyond off-putting executive compensation, many businesses are guilty of political, environmental and ethical stances inconsistent with public morality. As customers require brands to more precisely reveal their identities via emerging social channels, they will become more aware of these breaches in responsibility—and more likely to hold them against the offending organizations. At this point in our history, if one cannot trust an organization to do the right thing for its employees and in its communities, can that person really trust the brand to always do the right by its customers?

We are live and on-site at the Customer Experience for Financial Services & Banking Summit in New York City. If you would like to join us for day two (November 30), please send an email to brian[dot]cantor[at]iqpc[dot]com to learn about available discounts.