Organizations with superior customer interconnections are able to grow their businesses without special treatment, sales discounts or artificial hogwash. Of course, you have to be great at what you do, but having a truly successful organization comes down to one simple concept: trust.
With trust, you’ll have customers for life. Without trust, you have a long road ahead. Trust can be rebuilt, but it is much easier not break it in the first place.
Building trust takes time and a lot of hard work. But is entirely doable if you and your organization work on four of your most important core competencies: sincerity, reliability, competence and care.
Sincerity – I mean what I say, say what I mean and act accordingly.
Sincerity is a competency that should come naturally. Yet so many organizations have trouble coming to terms with what it really means.
Customers are smart. They know when you’re being up front or when they are told a mistruth. If honesty is the best policy, they’ll appreciate and admire you more when you admit to a mistake, rather than playing games or even worse, avoiding the topic altogether.
Don’t try to hide or cover up your errors. Address the issue directly, explain how you will handle it and share what steps are being taken to prevent the errors from occurring in the future. To implement transparency effectively, lead by example. Your employees will also admire you more for your honesty.
Building Trust: Sincerity
Be intentional about what you say to people. Factual inaccuracies and purposeful omissions, when revealed, inevitably lead customers to doubt your sincerity. Before you relate a fact, do what you can to make sure it is accurate. In haste, many people say what they believe is true. Omitting relevant facts can also be tempting, especially if you think they might confuse a issue or situation.
Reliability – You can count on me to deliver what I promised!”
While hardly anyone talks about the time you went above and beyond the call of duty for a customer, you’ll certainly hear from the displeased ones if you failed to meet a deadline or delivered a product that didn’t do what you promised. According to Concerto Marketing Groups research, 83 percent will recommend a trusted company to others and 82 percent will continue to use that brand frequently.
Earning a customer’s trust starts with giving excellent service. How would you want to be treated if you were a customer? The reality is that service should come naturally, instead of being strategically planned. The more you plan for great service, the less time you’ll spend delivering it.
Sure, there will be times when you’ve tried your best and can’t seem to make any headway with a particular problem. But you want to strive for responsiveness, timeliness and exceeded expectations.
Maintaining solid business relationships does not mean your customers have to like you. Creating customers for life is more about them trusting you to deliver on your promises. It takes effort, but in the end your hard work will pay off with repeat business, more referrals and personal peace of mind, knowing you met and exceeded your customers’ expectations.
Building Trust: Reliability
Before you respond to a customer request, make sure you can do what they are asking. Can you meet their request by the deadline they have given you? If not, negotiate what you can do in that time frame.
Competence – I know I can do this, I don’t know if I can do that.
Whether you work in a customer facing role or behind the scenes such as in a call center, you are there to address customer needs, and resolve complaints. Customers depend on you to be upfront and honest.
When working frequently with customers, it’s important to keep your word. Customer service representatives are the main link from a company to the outside world. When a customer service representative tells a consumer that he will investigate a situation that resulted in a complaint, it’s critical that he follows through. Representatives don’t just listen to the dissatisfactions or issues that customers have, but they also actively seek solutions.
When a customer asks if they can deliver a product or service to meet their needs, the representative needs to be competent to tell the customer if they can actually do it and meet their expectations. Conversely, if they can’t, then they need to say so.
Building Trust: Competence
If you don’t know the answer to a customer question, say so and tell them you need to seek help or clarification and that you will get back to them with an answer. To cultivate trust in your competence does not mean you have to have all the answers.
Care – We’re in this together
From my own personal experience, this is the most powerful domain for building trust. When you make decisions and take action, you care about people and have their best interest at heart including your own organizations.
When customers assess that you care about them, you don’ have to convince them every time you need their trust. They will tend to be more forgiving when things do go wrong. When you occasionally miss a deadline (reliability), say something that contradicts a previous conversation (sincerity), or make a mistake in a customer order (competence). Customers will usually give you the benefit of the doubt much more readily if they believe you care.
Building Trust: Care
Ask your customers what their interests and concerns are. Then explore where you both have common interests.
Building trust and credibility with customers through sincerity, reliability, competence and care will enable your business to thrive. The key is to cultivate trust in the culture of the organization to consistently deliver quality service that is responsive, timely and exceeds customer expectations.
©Path To Trust
Developed from work of Charles Feltman