PhotoOver the last year, consumer trust has taken a beating over recent privacy and data security nightmares. In turn, consumers’ expectations for trust has increased an unprecedented 25 percent, according to Brand Keys annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI).

“Trust has become the connective tissue between brands and loyalty,” noted Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys. “Brands looking for guaranteed profits, can’t do better than loyal customers.”

The index notes that there are a dozen sectors that underperform in the trust department. First among those is social media, with a 300 percent jump in the expectation of trust. Online retail checks in at number two with 272 percent, followed by department stores, broadcast and cable news, instant messaging, credit cards, insurance, investment services, fast food restaurants, online payment platforms, and rideshare providers.

Those who meet expectations

This year’s CLEI identified 10 brands who regularly capture first place in their product segment. Some of those -- like Discover Card and Avis -- have ruled the roost in their category for 20 years or more.

Other perennial most trusted companies include:

  • Google -- Search Engine: 19 years

  • Domino's -- Pizza: 15 years

  • Dunkin' -- Out-of-Home Coffee: 13 years

  • Konica Minolta -- MFP Office Copiers: 12 years

  • Hyundai -- Automobiles: 10 years

  • AT&T Wireless -- Wireless: 10 years

  • Amazon.com -- Online Retailer: 10 years

  • Amazon Kindle -- E-Reader: 9 years

Among the rising trust stars are:

Those who fail the trust test?

It didn’t matter to the survey respondents whether their privacy was breached in the U.S. or overseas -- they still heard about the blunders and made a sour, mental note.

“Data breaches in the past year alone – along with failure to disclose – by brands like Macy’s, Saks, Adidas, Panera, Delta, Under Armour, and Orbitz, have significantly increased the gap between what consumers expect and what brands deliver. There’s a new brand ‘yardstick’ for every category,” said Passikoff. “Consumers may still shop, but they’re increasingly wary.”

Consumers perceive service in their own terms

In Tom Peters’ landmark business book “In Search of Excellence,” he noted that customers “perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!”

And Peters’ axiom held true in the CLEI index.

“Trust decision-making has become more emotionally-driven over the past decade,” said Passikoff. “But the addition of increased desire for trust and transparency have changed category landscapes. ‘Business as usual,’ ‘Research as usual,’ won’t cut it in today’s brandscape. Based on the Index’ findings, consumers’ behavioral maxim is ‘verify first, then trust.’”

“Building brand trust isn’t a matter of technique or more social networking, but the development of actual, believable brand character and values.”


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