By JONATHAN FINE
We were shocked by the BP disaster off the American east coast and even more shocked by the CEO’s request to “get his own life back”. And what about the spectacular own goal inflicted by Gerald Ratner in April 1991 when he declared he sold “crap” and instantly wiped £500m off the value of his business.
These events had little impact on us as consumers: we did not stop buying BP petrol or jewellery at H. Samuel, one of the Ratner’s Jewellers owned trading brands, maybe because as consumers we did not rank trust very high in the decision making process to buy a pair of earrings cheaper than, as Gerald Ratner would say, an M&S prawn sandwich, or tank our car at the most convenient petrol station.
The latest example is, of course, VW. For better scores in emission tests on its diesel engines VW has lost everything: its reputation as the ambassador of impeccable German technology and its near cornering of the market in perceived trust and reliability (brand-wise, everything). Who would have thought?
VW has already lost its top spot as the world’s bestselling carmaker and, leaving aside the impending tsunami of legal suits around the world as the Seats, Skodas and Audis fitted with VW diesel engines all fail MOTs, and the stupendous cost of rectification ($86bn was an early estimate), the company still looks completely flatfooted weeks later.
Unless it deploys some kind of miraculous ad campaign immediately – and it would have to be one of the best ad campaigns ever known that somehow mixes contrition with humour, sincerity and openness – VW has completely lost consumer trust. It will take decades to reverse the new cynicism shared by you and me that all car makers are in it for what they can get out of us and must be treated with suspicion.
TalkTalk pulled off a similarly spectacular own goal for the broadband industry by losing the personal data for four million customers the other day and, to top it off, they arrogantly began issuing penalty notices to customers who wanted to break their contract and leave as a result. So rather than getting a meaningful apology followed by a charm offensive, TalkTalk and VW customers are still scratching their heads.
In contrast to these giant businesses that don’t have much contact with individual customers, dental practices actually have a tougher job of losing the trust of their patients – once they’ve got it, that is. When a patient knows you, they know you, and trust simply builds up as long as you don’t get anything drastically wrong. After all, people are still scared of going to the dentist and really want to feel as a secure as possible – they feel safer with what they know.
The question is, how do you get someone searching for a new dentist to look at your practice and think, “this looks like a dental practice I can trust”? Well, the look and feel of your website and your practice, together with your business’s style of communication over the phone, emails, treatment plans and social media should all share a voice that on some level is aimed at a particular target market.
When writing anything you have to think of your reader, and so if your practice is aiming to provide cosmetic dentistry for people on a budget, with a high volume low cost model, they will instantly feel something is wrong if your website says things like, “Our clinicians are among the best in the country,” and, “We take our time to give you beautiful cosmetic results.” There’s no need to say these things because they jar with the truth. You could say: “Painless cosmetic procedures by qualified professionals for less.”
What I’m really saying is you don’t trust a person or a business by accident – there has to be a specific appeal to your agenda, whether that’s feeling an affinity with someone because you find out they come from the same town as you or, in the case of dentistry, the dental practice appears to speak to your needs in a straightforward, helpful way.
Let me know if I can help you develop your marketing to win the trust of new patients.