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ZOOM: HOW CONSISTENCY CREATED ONE OF OUR MOST TRUSTED COMPANIES

Wed Aug 11 2021 Michael McQueen

If we have learned anything in the last year, it is that the only certain thing is uncertainty. Businesses have felt this too, with lockdowns, virus variants and financial instability sending consumer confidence plummeting. This is in line with trends that were already at play as a series of scandals, ethical missteps and moral failures in public organisations drove home the undeniable message that businesses and institutions cannot be trusted.

For this reason, building trust should be one of the central priorities for all companies in today’s world. Especially post-pandemic, much of this trust needs to be built through consistency. For all the pivoting we have done during COVID, there is much to be said for the value of consistency in the face of uncertainty.

There is perhaps no better example of the value of consistency in the midst of crisis than the most recognisably successful brand that emerged through the pandemic: Zoom. When all other organisations were scrambling to adjust their systems and services to new circumstances, Zoom maintained a dependable and overall faultless product used almost universally by businesses and individuals.

Many may pin this down to the company’s luck at selling a product that became a bare necessity during the pandemic, but CXO Talk’s recent conversation with the CEO of Zoom, Eric S. Yuan, reveals there is more contributing to its claiming of consumer confidence than we realise. Zoom’s core business value is customer happiness. According to Yuan, this value has been a guiding principle through the pandemic as the business felt a sense of heightened responsibility as their consumer base expanded.[1] Not only were there more customers to keep happy, but the connection and happiness provided by the organisation was of a greater importance than ever before.

In my book The Case for Character I explain how consistency in customer experience and brand messaging are core to building and maintaining trust with customers. Here is how these two essentials have played out for Zoom in the last two years.

Customer Experience

Offering a consistent customer experience is essential for trusted brands, and according to this recent interview with Yuan, this is exactly the kind of service Zoom aims to provide. Yuan explained his company’s aim to prioritise customers’ unique perspectives by examining all parts of the business through their eyes. Last year, this meant doing so through a range of new perspectives, due to the diversification of the company’s market.

While maintaining the trust of existing customers was important, last year presented Zoom with the challenge of building the trust of a diverse and exponentially growing group of new customers. As previously untapped markets, such as school students, doctors and yoga instructors, suddenly joined Zoom, understanding their unique needs rapidly became essential. Yuan elaborated on the process of building trust with customers, highlighting the importance of openness and transparency as key ways of doing so. Communicating clearly and regularly with customers about changes and upgrades to the platform was essential and prevented large amounts of friction between user and company.

One of the most important areas to examine through the customer’s perspective is the company’s growth. Understanding pain points, integrating feedback and regularly questioning what would add value for the customer are key ways in which Zoom orients its growth. It is easy to see how a company that prioritises the customer’s interests and needs to such an extent would be successful in maintaining their trust and loyalty. If all growth moves with the needs of consumer, then the consumer won’t outgrow the company.

In an outstanding image of leading by example, Yuan shared that he regularly joins calls and meetings with customers in order to best understand them and ensure his presence is tangible in his company. His priorities are clear: ‘If you do not care about the customer, you’re going to lose their trust.’

Brand Messaging

As stated before, maintaining consistency in brand messaging is essential for a business that is going to be trusted. Again, Zoom emerges as a case in point, with its core priority of customer happiness infusing all systems and processes.

Branding is often seen to refer to an organisation’s public image – logos, catchphrases, colour schemes. However, successful businesses recognise that building a trusted brand is more about the consistency of its message and its alignment with the reality of business processes. Companies that claim to put the customer first but do not provide clear points of contact or useful assistance do not have a consistent brand.

Interestingly, in Yuan’s interview, corporate culture emerged as inseparable from customer satisfaction and brand messaging. Yuan attributes the doubling of his company last year to its corporate culture. In a year of intense pressure, extreme and rapid growth and high expectations, the company could not have functioned without supporting employees. In spite of the difficult conditions, Zoom had no problems hiring new employees thanks to its glowing reputation.

Yuan states, ‘Our company culture is just two words: deliver happiness. Meaning, for me as the CEO of the company, my number one priority is to make sure our employees are happy. Together, as a business, we make our customers happy. That's our company culture.’

Closely connected to this prioritisation of happiness is their core value of ‘care’ which is centred in the hiring process, in daily meetings and in all decision making. If changes are not aligned with their value of caring for customers and employees, they are the wrong changes. This is especially clear in the three questions that are asked before all decisions: ‘Will this decision benefit our customers? Will this decision benefit our employees? Will this decision be sustainable or not?’. Zoom’s brand is consistent right from the customer experience all the way to the employee’s. For all parties involved, delivering happiness is the priority.

Zoom is a unique and outstanding case study for the power of consistency in the face of uncertainty. We have all benefited from the dependability of Zoom’s online services in the last year or so, and after examining the systems that the company has in place behind the scenes, this is unsurprising. Genuinely caring for the needs and interests of both customers and employees makes up the core of Zoom’s strategy to maintain trust. And who wouldn’t trust a brand whose main priority is to deliver happiness.

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Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and is a bestselling author of 9 books. His most recent book The New Now examines the 10 trends that will dominate a post-COVID world and how to prepare for them now. 

To see Michael speaking live, click here.

For more information on Michael's keynote speaking topics, michaelmcqueen.net/programs.

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[1] Krigsman, M & Yuan, E 2021, ‘Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan: How to Manage Customer Experience?’, Conversations With Top Innovators, 28 May.