With the rise of the sharing economy, we’ve seen a new type of business model being embraced around the world. Just look at companies like Uber, Airbnb and Etsy. Their success isn’t due so much to hordes of superstar salespeople or expensive branding campaigns. Their secret weapon? Customers trust them.
The telecom industry could do well to study this phenomenon and apply the lessons to their own way of practicing business. The cold truth is that our industry has one foot in the past with some of our methodologies, and one foot in the present with our technical innovation. But it’s time for us to take a step forward and build the sense of community that has enabled other industries to adapt to 21st century thinking.
What exactly do we mean by trust? Part of the answer lies in looking how trust has historically been conveyed.
For decades corporations, including telecom firms, instilled confidence in their customers by how they constructed and designed their offices. Grand architecture, sophisticated furniture, luxurious materials, spacious hallways – they all declared, if you do business with us, you’re guaranteed to be happy with the results. After all, those leather chairs show that we’re successful. Perception was reality.
On top of that, they spent thousands and thousands of dollars on marketing materials. They’d hire top-flight branding agencies to create beautifully designed brochures and logos, complete with evocative taglines, stunning photography and emotion-inspiring copy.
Like the corporate offices, the quality of the branding was supposed to somehow represent the quality of the product or service. And in many ways, that strategy worked, as business people and consumers largely made buying decisions on those corporate messages.
But now trust comes from other people: the reviews they write on company sites, the amount of stars a product receives, and their comments via social media. In short, we trust other shoppers before we trust corporate spokespeople. Now trust has to be earned
In that light, telecom firms must put more effort into creating and maintaining positive online reputations. If someone learns about your company on Linkedin, what perception will they come away with? What about Instagram or Twitter? Do endorsements outnumber complaints, does praise about your customer service outnumber poor reviews of your technical acumen?
Trust can be an abstract concept, but we all know it when we experience it. Trust tells you that a company has credibility, that you feel confident in placing an order or signing a contract. And today credibility comes from actual evidence, be it amazing reviews from total strangers or recommendations from close Facebook connections.
Telecom companies must start spending more time on trust-building campaigns and less time on traditional marketing campaigns. In fact, they should think of trust as the new advertising. Remember – prospects don’t care what your brand has to say, they care what your customers say.