COVID-19   Crisis   Culture

Building brand trust starts with employees

April 21, 2020

At the heart of customer experience is trust. Your audiences expect you to be reliable, responsible and consistently deliver on your promises. Trust is hard to build and brands must work hard to maintain it. Simply put: Customers don’t do business with companies they can’t trust.

How a brand treats its employees is one of the strongest indicators of customer trust. Feeling the economic impact at home and around the world due to COVID-19, audiences are turning to brands they know and taking a close look at their corporate behavior.

With many Americans weathering their own job losses, the experience of corporate employees now feels intensely personal. In a recent brand trust report by Edelman, 71% of consumers agree that businesses perceived as putting profit over people during this time will lose trust permanently.

In that same brand study, 78% of consumers say that how a company treats its employees is one of the greatest indicators of its trustworthiness.

Trust with your consumers needs to be built from the inside out — starting with your employees.

This is no longer a matter of internal communication vs. external communication. Employees who feel supported and empowered by their employers are far more likely to be loyal, engaged in their work and advocate on behalf of the brand. All of these ingredients add up to a stronger customer experience, especially in the face of uncertain times.

So how can brands support their employees, and their brand, right now?

Your employees are looking to you to lead the way during the coronavirus epidemic. These are ways you can make an impact:

  • Promote health with accurate information. Did you know that employees say they trust their employers more than government and media (+27 points) and even NGOs (+18 points)? This puts employers in a unique position to help their employees discern what information about COVID-19 is meaningful and help them adopt healthier, potentially life-saving behaviors. Because employer communications are the most credible sources of information, brands have an opportunity and responsibility to provide their employee base the information that will make a difference in keeping them healthy and safe as we face this pandemic.
  • Help reduce anxiety and promote community with regular updates. Knowing the facts reassures employees and helps build trust. Employees want to know how many colleagues have contracted coronavirus and how the company will continue to operate. They want to understand what effects pandemic may have on the company and how to do their jobs safely. They want timely information available to them in regular emails or newsletters, on the company website and phone/video conferences. They also want to feel connected during a time when many of us are feeling isolated. Sharing employee stories and providing ways for employees to connect socially online can go a long way.
  • Act swiftly and decisively to keep people safe. Employees generally have high trust in their employer to respond effectively and responsibly (62%) to the virus. This high trust in employees also comes with an expectation for businesses to act to protect employees, their customers and the local community. Employees are expecting businesses to adapt operations (79%), to cancel non-essential activities and to adapt HR policies to help with extended sick leave or prevent at-risk employees from reporting to work.

Investing in employees is personal.

Brands who go above and beyond to invest in their employees will be rewarded with customer loyalty and increased brand trust. Investing in employees during uncertain times will look very different for every business and industry.

  • For businesses who remain fully operational and are able to retain 100% of employees, it may mean investing in culture. Paying attention to morale and challenges employees may be facing with childcare or access to care may be central.
  • For businesses who may have to furlough employees, it may mean personally guiding them through the uncomfortable next steps of applying for unemployment benefits or going the extra mile to show you care. A recent example of this is one employer who had to close her business and temporarily lay off her employees. She sent out personalized care packages with food and supplies to show her employees that she is invested in their wellbeing, even when the business cannot financially support them.
  • Across the board, actively spotlighting and demonstrating appreciation for the hard work your employees are doing to help the company succeed is valued.

The downstream effects of putting people first and ensuring your employees’ needs are met during this crisis are significant. As customers increasingly scrutinize employee’s internal company experiences, your external credibility and trust in the brand are on the line.

The more you build trust in your workplace and empower employees, the more you are building credibility as a brand and building your voice and value from the inside out.

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