ITL #552 Importance of transparent communication and storytelling in building trust and loyalty

3 months ago

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When a brand tells its story honestly and compassionately, it weaves a narrative that customers can connect with on a personal level. By Rashmi Soni.



Over the past decade, technology and ease of access to information led to a remarkable shift in the way brands are vying to connect with their customers. However, the change took another angular turn after the covid-19 pandemic. Several studies after the pandemic-induced lockdowns, globally, pointed at new trends emerging on the evolving relationships between brands and their customers.

 

EY Future Consumer Index 2021 was one of the first to identify this shift wherein it articulated that “growing consumer awareness and activism precipitated during the social unrest of 2020 should make brands very focused on the values they express”. This has emerged as a pivot for brands to reengineer consumer communication and have enhanced focus on storytelling around their values to build trust and strengthen brand loyalty.

 

The new-age realm of customer communications revolves around tenets like sustainability, ethical sourcing, trust, quality, empathy, and social responsibility among other marketing strategy elements.  The continually evolving landscape calls for a specialised outreach backed by transparent communication. It is imperative to remain transparent with customers at each juncture of their journeys, especially for brands that have multiple touchpoints with a customer.

 

In this age of information overload through various digital channels, customers desire meaningful personal connections with brands. The art of storytelling empowers brands to pique consumer interest by showcasing their core values and narrating genuine stories that resonate profoundly with people, leading to enhanced brand equity.

 

Trust and loyalty are of paramount importance

In the contemporary business landscape, where consumers are increasingly investing in relationships with brands rather than mere transactions, truthful communication emerges as the linchpin of trust and loyalty. As highlighted in a survey by McKinsey in 2022, where 85% of respondents emphasised the importance of comprehending data privacy policies, transparent communication plays a pivotal role. It serves as the bridge for brands to convey transparency, reliability, and integrity in their data-handling practices.

 

This clarity in communication not only educates customers about data privacy but also contributes to reputation management and engagement. Moreover, it is purposeful communication, which fosters customer loyalty, turning satisfied patrons into brand ambassadors. In essence, honest communication is the cornerstone upon which trust is built, making it an indispensable pillar for a brand's long-term success in competitive and uncertain markets.

 

Criticality of transparent communication and storytelling

Transparent communication and storytelling have emerged as formidable tools in a brand’s toolbox, aiming to cultivate trust and loyalty. These enable the brands to do more than just promote their products or services while also allowing them to reflect their identity and convey their values in a relatable and humane way.

 

When a brand tells its story honestly and compassionately, it weaves a narrative that customers can connect with on a personal level. It transforms a faceless entity into a relatable and trustworthy companion on the consumer's journey. Furthermore, transparent communication establishes the brand's credibility as customers appreciate knowing what they are signing up for. Not only that, but consistency of messaging is also another important aspect that helps build a reliable and positive image of the brand.

 

Storytelling has the incredible ability to humanise the brand, infusing it with personality, character, and relatability. Transparent communication and storytelling coupled with positive experience enable brands to forge a deeper emotional bond with their customers. Brands that can create kinship enjoy enduring success, as loyal customers are more likely to advocate for the brand, provide repeat business, and genuinely support the brand especially during challenging times or crises.

 

Transparency as a foundation

When a brand commits to transparency, it demonstrates an earnest desire to be accountable and open in its dealings with customers. In this digital age, the intricacies of business operations, whether external or internal, can be effortlessly disseminated, granting consumers access to more information. The fact that consumers are now more aware than ever, places a greater onus on brands to wholeheartedly embrace transparency.

 

Notably, this mounting pressure has ushered in a transformative shift in the way brands perceive transparency—a realisation that it holds increasingly profound significance for consumers and may, in the final analysis, serve as the decisive factor influencing purchase decisions.

 

Accountability and integrity in times of crises

In today’s VUCA world where the possibility of undesirable situations are as abundant as great opportunities, the role of honest communication is even more crucial. Enabling a data-driven understanding of customers’ concerns and expectations takes utmost priority in a situation like this. It requires identifying common pain points through continuous monitoring of customer feedback across channels, addressing them on priority and communicating actions and commitments effectively.

 

All of this effort is irrelevant until it is communicated to the stakeholders with honesty and transparency. Empirical evidence points to the fact that transparent communication has helped brands garner respect with their righteous conduct. For instance, this approach was especially effective at a time during the third wave of the pandemic when Vistara had to temporarily suspend many of its marquee services in compliance with safety guidelines.

 

With an overwhelming outpouring of customer queries and manpower inadequacy due to staff contracting the virus, the gaps in service grew, both on-ground and back-end. Ultimately this led to customer complaints across social media and negative reporting by the media.

 

Vistara acknowledged the gaps in customer service, transparently communicated the reasons, and focused on addressing the issues, promising customers that it will come back stronger. As a customer-centric airline, it was paramount to address the issues head-on, reassuring customers to continue having faith in Vistara while the airline worked on corrective measures.

 

The key insight that the airline relied on was the need to be transparent and forthcoming in its communication with customers and all other relevant stakeholders during this strenuous journey of recovery.

 

Consistent, transparent messaging reassures customers that work is in progress and improvements are ongoing. Adaptability to dynamic conditions, commitment to customer-centricity, creativity in solutions, and continuous monitoring further enhance this process.

 

Brands must take responsibility for shortcomings and communicate actions to rectify them within given timelines. Following this structured framework, brands can effectively navigate crises, address customer concerns, and rebuild trust, even in the most challenging circumstances.

 

Balancing act: technology and human interactions

Building trust and loyalty through transparent communication and storytelling may appear intricate, but in today's era the process is more accessible than ever. Automated solutions or artificial intelligence-based tools can proficiently assess various customer propensities.

 

However, the key lies in ensuring that these automated systems continuously evolve and improve by learning from human interactions. Therefore, the technology supporting these interactions must be seamless and unobtrusive across various platforms.

 

At the heart of all strong relationships lies empathy. Understanding and adapting to social cues not only enhances trust but also forms the bedrock of strong customer connections. It is the delicate balance between technology and genuine human interaction that will ultimately drive trust and loyalty in the modern business landscape.

 

 

 


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The Author

Rashmi Soni

Rashmi Soni, VP & Head of Corporate Communications, Vistara.

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