Over the last 12 months trust in business across the board has been in the media spotlight more than ever. Businesses are learning the hard way that the reputation of their brand can be badly damaged if consumer trust is compromised. Trust, once lost, is extremely difficult to regain.
Which?, as the largest consumer organisation in Europe with more than 800,000 members, is well placed and committed to showcase the very best of business to consumers, and to explore what more companies can do to address the concerns of their customers.
We track consumer trust across a wide range of sectors and have seen first hand how large scale scandals, systemic mis-selling and customer service failures in the financial services, energy and food sectors have critically undermined consumer trust. For example, our polling consistently shows that only two in ten now trust energy companies to act in their best interest.
But we continue to believe that those companies that do manage to successfully differentiate their brands — that articulate clearly what’s special about what they deliver for customers — can take a leadership position, earn trust and gain a significant competitive advantage.
Of course, standing apart from the rest requires strong leadership and a commitment to putting customers first every time. It might not insulate businesses from every external crisis, but recovery is much faster if you’ve earned trust in the first place.
We are delighted to be working with the CBI, bringing together the leading voices for business and consumers in the UK, and I’m pleased to be on the taskforce for The Great Business Debate.
Through our research, insight and campaigns, Which? reflects the views of real consumers. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, and funded solely by the profits from our successful commercial ventures, we are able to share our experiences of how putting the consumer at the heart of a successful business is vital for that business to prosper in the long term.
We want to see good businesses come forward and talk about what they want to do to re-engage consumers. We want to see a broader discussion of the role of business in society, in line with increasing consumer expectations. And we want to see this campaign taking an important role in aligning businesses’ objectives with that consumer demand.
Peter Vicary-Smith has been Chief Executive of Which? since August 2004. Before joining Which?, he worked in both the commercial and charitable sectors.