Customers judging trustworthiness based on Covid-19 behaviour

Pandemic escalating expectation of firms’ digital capabilities, Salesforce survey finds

“Digital-first behaviour is here to stay as customers develop new habits that will last for the long term.” Photograph: Matt Grayson/PA

“Digital-first behaviour is here to stay as customers develop new habits that will last for the long term.” Photograph: Matt Grayson/PA

 

How a company acts during a crisis demonstrates its trustworthiness, 90 per cent of Irish customers believe, while almost three-quarters say the Covid-19 pandemic has elevated their expectation of firms’ digital capabilities.

The figures come from the State of the Connected Customer report from tech giant Salesforce. The fourth edition of its annual report, published on Tuesday, suggests that even during a time of crisis, factors such as empathy, personalisation, convenience and digital transformation remain key to customer relationships.

The global report captures insights from more than 15,000 consumers and business buyers across 27 countries, including 650 respondents from Ireland.

It found that 90 per cent of customers in Ireland said how a company acts during a crisis demonstrates its trustworthiness.

“The events of this year have upended the relationships between customers and brands,” said the report. “During a time when uncertainty and confusion reign, brands have an opportunity to reinforce and rebuild trust with new and loyal customers alike.”

Empathy and support

In terms of convenience, two-thirds of Irish customers said it generally felt as though sales, service and marketing did not share information with each other.

“As each individual navigates change and uncertainty, empathy for and support of customers’ unique needs, expectations and challenges are critical, as is providing a convenient, connected experience that eliminates unnecessary burdens in a stressful time,” the report noted.

On the other hand, 74 per cent of customers said Covid-19 had elevated their expectations of companies’ digital capabilities. “Digital-first behaviour is here to stay as customers develop new habits that will last for the long term,” the report said.

“As digital engagement grows, customers expect companies to digitise their operations for multichannel, high-touch interactions. This relies in no small part on the use of personal information, and customers are calling for enhanced transparency and stewardship.

Almost nine out of 10 Irish customers said the societal role of companies was changing.

Changed landscape

“Long-overdue reckonings with social, economic and ecological ills have come to the fore, and society is calling on businesses to do their part in righting wrongs,” the report added. “A failure to heed responsibilities to more than shareholders threatens bottom lines.”

Salesforce spokesman Vala Afshar said: “Regardless of who they market, sell or provide service to, businesses are navigating a landscape they couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of this year.

“A massive shift to digital channels isn’t the only challenge that leaders have to grapple with.

“They also need to listen and respond to customer demands for empathy and understanding, innovative products and services, and a fundamental rethinking of the role of business in society.

“Connecting customers at various touchpoints – digital, human or other – to gain a holistic understanding is the first step on the path to resiliency and growth.”