Black and white handshake 2

Levels of trust in professional services

Trust in government, public institutions and professional groups has been slipping in the past decade. To some extent, we can say that this has been fuelled by whistleblowing, issues over Parliamentary expenses, as well as high profile cases of government data breaches. Debates about privacy in public policy appear to have eroded general levels of trust.  What has emerged is an appetite amongst certain consumers for more scrutiny and data/information transparency. The extent to which consumers consider your brand trustworthy is often over-looked in marketing and brand strategy. 

Understanding how trust works and the extent to which it is a driver of professional service products is key. We ran a set of exclusive panel questions which asked simply ‘Which of the following professionals do your trust the most’ and ‘Which of the following professionals do you trust the least?’ The results, based on over 2,000 consumers are presented below. They indicate that doctors are by far the most trusted professional from a prompted list while politicians are deemed the most untrustworthy. 

                                                                       Stats for trsut blog 

Moreover, only 12% of consumers said that they trusted solicitors the most and even fewer trusted accountants. Further analysis reveals that this relatively low level of trust was uniform across men and women, although trust levels were slightly higher amongst older age groups. 

Further work published elsewhere by Harris Interactive shows that levels of trust are not necessarily uniform across a category. The question asked “For each of the following companies, to what extent do you agree or disagree that your relationship is based on trust?”. So in the case of financial services, we can see that brands such as First Direct and the Co-operative Bank tend to attract higher levels of consumer trust than the RBS Group in this example.

                                                                                 Graphs for trust blog         

For firms operating in sectors where there is little pre-existing knowledge of brands amongst private consumers, the overall lack of trust in the professionals is clearly the most significant issue. This has implications for marketing and how initial queries are dealt with which can be diagnosed by techniques such as Customer Journey Mapping. These findings raise several issues for professional services. 

Academics such as Maister et al also provide frameworks which allow us to measure and potentially track ‘trustworthiness’ within a business.  The key components include perceived credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation. A client may get a rather quick sense of the credibility of a fee earner for instance (e.g. his qualifications, the firm he/she works for, etc) but more emotional elements (e.g. the ‘closeness’ or ‘intimacy’ of the business relationship) are more challenging to build and cement. Armed with this sort of knowledge we can begin to unpick client satisfaction results in a more sophisticated way and target interventions where required.

By Dave Ruston

This entry was tagged Communication, Politics, Surveys, Polls, Trust, Government, Professionals and posted on April 20, 2015

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