Develop ‘extreme trust’ with customers, says retailing guru

Don Peppers, recognised for his authority on customer-focused relationships, gave the keynote speech at the Open Jaw travel retailing summit. Dinah Hatch reports

Travel suppliers must develop a relationship based around “extreme trust” with their customers to drive up conversion rates – even if that means losing sales in the short term.

This was the message from US business guru Don Peppers who delivered the keynote address at travel technology company Open Jaw’s travel retailing conference in Dublin last month.

Peppers told the conference: “Transparency is key now. It’s no longer enough to simply refrain from cheating customers. You have to show you have good intentions towards them and be open and honest about your business. Transparency is like a disinfectant for businesses. It will clean things up, but it will sting like hell at first.”

The US author held up Amazon as a perfect example of what travel companies should strive for in their online relationship with customers.

He explained: “If you try and buy a book from Amazon that you have already bought but forgot about, the site will remind you. It knows it could lose that sale but instead it has earned customer trust, which is way more valuable. When 83% of consumers trust recommendations from friends, but only 14% of consumers trust advertising, that sort of loyalty is crucial.”

He went on to explain how advertising becomes less effective as the popularity of online purchasing grew. “Before customers are talking about your brand advertising is key. But as soon as customers start discussing you, it’s what they say that takes over. That’s when you need to be developing more than just trust – you need to create trustworthiness.”

Peppers also highlighted the short-sightedness of online retailers who refused to allow negative customer reviews of their product on their site, arguing that a bad review in among good ones can enhance authenticity.

“When you look at a site and there’s nothing but good reviews, it kind of makes you wonder because there are plenty of people out there who charge just a few dollars to write a good review. But if there are a couple of not so great ones, it looks more real. It also shows vulnerability, which inspires trust.”

In any case, he added, if you don’t allow bad reviews, technology will make it happen anyway. Concepts like Stumbleupon already mean users can express opinions on sites that are beyond the control of administrators.

And he dismissed the fear that many retailers have that fake, unfair reviews of their product would distort this process.

“Right now, there is a cottage industry in writing fake reviews, but that is transitory. In the long term, people will rely more on opinions from people they already know and trust.

“Already Google Plus requires a person’s real ID to post a review and that idea will soon prevail, making it harder for ‘sockpuppet’ reviewers who don’t exist as real people to post.”

The above article is taken from the June edition of Travolution. digital version is available on line now.

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