HOW DOES BRAND TRUST RELATE TO COVID-19
2020 has, without a doubt, been a year that will go down in memory and in history for many reasons. But one of the most interesting ways in which COVID, lockdown and new health and safety restrictions have impacted our lives, is through our relationship as consumers and businesses with the brands and names we choose to associate ourselves with.
It’s not as though boycotting or choosing certain brands based on values or beliefs is a new phenomenon, but never has this been seen on such a specific level in such a condensed amount of time. Just recently, the government announced that all major supermarket chains must comply with mask wearing regulations, an act which has many concerned shoppers jumping for joy and specifically shopping at locations where they know their safety is treated as a priority.
It’s difficult to know what the long term effects of COVID will be on brand loyalty and brand trust, but as it stands now, the evidence supporting brand trust as a major factor in consumer decision making is overwhelming. One survey found that 53% of people marked brand trust as their top priority when spending their money. According to them, “The long-held practice of standing aside during controversies and crises is no longer an option for brands.” So where does that leave businesses trying to form their brand and brand identity, and how can they establish this trust between a client and the service provided.
Cleanliness becomes the standard
Once upon a time, health and safety and above all, cleanliness, was a gold star on a company’s resume, these days it is absolutely essential and could save lives. The only way in which the importance of these measures is going to permeate through the company and become a standard part of your brand is through a top-down approach.
When lockdown measures were first lifted, over 40% of people surveyed admitted they felt anxious about both going outside as well as going into a shop to do essential shopping. This anxiety also extends to employees themselves, who often do not feel comfortable coming back to work With current lockdown restrictions not going away anytime soon, it is then business owners’ responsibility to lead from the top down and instill this new culture into the workplace. Not only will this ensure employees feel safe, but they will then be able to use their knowledge to build a trustworthy relationship between the brand and potential clients.
A ‘business as usual’ attitude can no longer be the norm. Above all, safety must come first, compliance with procedures, and a clear and focussed message that complies with the rules.
Make your changes visible
You may be the most health and safety conscious brand in existence, and it still doesn’t matter for much if nobody knows about it. On top of drilling in a new culture of cleanliness and compliance, it is also important that businesses make their changes and rules known. Health and safety is now a brand in itself as well as your marketing and it’s important to treat it as such.
On a surface level, visible changes should be made to your premises, so that the second a customer walks into the building, they can see that their safety is a priority. Visible signs, protective screens, plentiful and accessible sanitary gel should all be standard these days in any indoor space. Ensure that staff can be seen cleaning in plain sight of customers, especially in areas such as bars and restaurants where the risk of transmission is that much higher.
According to this study, personal experiences account for the most important factor regarding opinions on a brand and aid the most in establishing brand trust, so the first visual impressions are vital. And considering about 75% of people are thought to only buy from brands they trust, that first impression could make a significant difference in client satisfaction, revenue, and future growth.
Be vocal about your health and safety policies
Your social media should always reflect your brand ethos and values, but now is the time to ensure you are posting about your COVID compliance and attention to detail. Show your followers that your employees are happily wearing their masks at work, perhaps even post a video of your daily cleaning routine to reassure potential customers. It’s all very well to do it in private, but if no one sees it, then it does very little to build that trust.
Having a dedicated COVID page/post on your business site is also a fantastic way to let potential clients know what you stand for and what you are doing to keep them safe. Having the information visibly accessible makes it that much easier for people to see that transparency.
Finally, even reaching out to local news sites or attempting to get featured on local news can help spread the word to a larger, but local audience. While it may not be a small, local business, Republic Airways was featured in The Telegraph, depicting its staff diligently cleaning down an aircraft in between journeys. Countless other brands have launched COVID awareness campaigns that aim to remind their customers that they are all responsible for keeping people safe, reminding people to socially distance and even changing slogans or logos.
It’s proactive, transparent, and thought-provoking behavior like this that not only makes a brand memorable but puts them ahead of the competition in terms of COVID awareness and earning that trust.
Communicate with your clients
Like any other relationship, trust between a brand and a customer is built on communication. It is your job to ensure that your precautions and COVID compliance are as visible and as obvious as possible, but reminding your customers of this during their visit further solidifies this. Again, nobody wants a ‘business as usual’ approach anymore; most people’s priorities lay in feeling safe and secure.
And communication doesn’t just have to stop at that first meeting with a client. The ‘We Hear You’ campaign, created by a number of review organisations, has seen great success, with many hospitality brands signing up to this survey in order to gauge customer feedback. While it’s true that most people detest being bothered by post-experience surveys, reaching out to customers in regards to satisfaction with COVID compliance diverts the attention to their health and safety and shows that the brand cares and is willing to improve.
With over a 90% satisfaction rate in most restaurants that took part in this scheme, it is clear that visible COVID compliance played a role in quelling people’s fears. Over 70% of people admitted to feeling nervous about eating out, but left the premises feeling happy and relaxed. That kind of brand trust can prove invaluable once the pandemic is over.
Hire the right people
Your employees are your brand ambassadors and so are the people you hire externally. If there’s one thing that we have all recognised during this pandemic, it’s that the most unexpected people have shown themselves to be the true heroes when it comes to saving lives. Those responsible for cleaning, for waste disposal, for any kind of health and safety service that could impact the safety of your employees and clients, are now a vital part of your brand.
For example, what sort of company culture are your waste providers and cleaners exhibiting? Are they finding loopholes around government guidelines and regulations, or is health and safety their top priority? Any business that requires access to your premises should be wearing PPE without being told and ensure that all high touch surfaces are deep cleaned and sanitized on every visit. If they are not doing a satisfactory job, or you feel they are not taking regulations and cleanliness seriously, it may be time to search for new providers.
You never know when a customer or potential client might come across waste disposal personnel, a decorator, or any number of people that may need to visit your facility in order to provide a service. If they are not setting the example you wish to set in your company, then you should hire the right people that reflect your values.
Now more than ever, brands need to be aware of the importance of COVID-19 awareness and how making that an active part of your business outlook and ethos can build solid relationships with your customers. People want to be reassured that they are in good hands and that companies are not just searching for the next convenient profit, but that they are investing their time and resources into helping others and keeping people safe.
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