Gaining trust with your customers has got to be up there towards the top of your business’s top priorities, and undoubtedly can be one of the biggest means of building brand trust long term. We all would love to have long term, meaningful relationships with our customers, and one of the major drivers for that dynamic is trust.
There are three basic concepts to follow, along with some behavioral best practices that can bring you and your company miles ahead of your competitors. These three concepts are be truthful, on time and consistent. I’m not going to write you out a list of the “10 best strategies for building customer trust”. Instead, I’m going to speak from the heart and what I’ve learned.
There are some very basic habits and customs you should be familiar with and treat as a natural interaction with everybody. This is customer service basics. Being polite, shaking hands, smiling, listening. All of these should be practiced and really driven home in your business. Customer service isn’t isolated to your customers however. Basic customer service habits should exist between your team members and internally as well. When your team members trust and respect each other, so do your clients.
Don’t over promise and under deliver
First things first, never over promise. Getting the deal is not nearly as important as actually delivering on that deal. There may be times that you are tempted to offer more than what you’re really comfortable with, in order to win the sale of your product or service. Let’s say you won the deal with this practice, when it comes time to deliver on what you over promised, you and your team are going to be scrambling to provide a solution that you aren’t really equipped to solve. Your team feels this, your customer feels this and it isn’t healthy for either party. Motivation and employee happiness sink, and the customer’s trust in you diminishes.
Under promise, and over deliver
If anything, under promise and have 100% confidence that you can deliver a solution to a problem. Deliver on that solution on time, or faster than what you promised. Then, maybe go a little out of your way to provide extra value where you can. Your customers will appreciate this exponentially, and return to you over and over again because you’ve provided more than was expected in a positive way. Your customers will begin to feel that they’re your number one priority, and that you’re willing to go the extra mile to help them.
In a post from Inc.com, they mention the idea that there’s no margin for going above and beyond. I get the idea here. Sometimes, for those of us who are going above and beyond, there usually isn’t much immediate benefit for our business as it pertains to revenue or even gratification from the client. I don’t care. From a character standpoint, it feels good to provide more value than what was expected. Even if the client doesn’t say anything, you and your company can feel good in knowing that you treated the customer in the best way possible. And that feels amazing.
Never lie, keep it real
For the love of all things holy, don’t lie. I feel like this is a given but the longer I’m in business the more I see it and it’s honestly, quite disgusting. Who wants to be lied to when they’re being provided a service? And actually, withholding information is equally as trust crushing. There are hundreds of examples I could use but I’ll pull one out and we’ll take a look at it.
Let’s say that your company is working on a very large project for a customer, and it’s both technically difficult and conceptually. Maybe it’s something that your company has a lesser exposure to than say your other projects you’ve completed in the past. Your team is running into difficulty because there’s either a lack of experience or direction on the solution to the customer’s problem (or both). Maybe you made a mistake on setting expectations with your customer. It happens, you try you best not to, but we’re all only human. If your customer checks in with you to find out how it’s going, and your response is something like “The project is on track and we’re crushing it internally to solve your problem”. Ok. Now you’ve not only lied, but you’re hurting both your company and your customer. Now you’ve set the expectation to you customer that everything is fine, and now your team is going to be stressed to deliver something that’s already potentially outside of your skill set. You run the risk of going over your deadline and under delivering, losing confidence with your customer, but your team isn’t happy either.
Here’s how I would approach this. Look, we’re all going to run into a project that’s going to push our experiences and comfort levels. I get that. But be honest with your clients. And bring up problems early. Your client will appreciate the fact that when there’s an issue, that you want to find the solution to keep the project moving forward. Here’s what I would say, “We’re running into difficulty with this particular area, so we’re focused on finding a solution currently. If you’d like, we can discuss this further so you can understand what we’re doing to keep moving forward.”
Be honest, and share bad news early
Your customers will appreciate the honesty. Really. This shows that you’re a problem solver. As long as you’re solving problems, you can keep moving forward and further build your trust with your client. Even when the news isn’t so pleasant, the fact that you were 100% honest and solution driven, problems are easily worked through and everybody is on the same page. The solution.
Being on time means you’re late
This is another one that I feel should go without saying. I’m going to back up a little bit and share with you how I actually feel about being on time. Being on time means you’re late. This is something that was drilled into me from my Navy days, but was a trait that was taught to me well before the military. Think about this for a moment. If you have a meeting at 9:00am, and you show up at 9:00am sharp, you’re on time and congratulations. But now that you’ve gotten there, you need to get your materials, presentations, prepare your mind for the meeting or whatever else you need to do to be ready. Now you’re in the meeting, wasting time getting ready when the meeting has already started.
Fifteen minute early is what I consider to be on time
Being a few minutes early allows you to prepare yourself mentally for the meeting. How many people are going to be there, are you presenting, are you ready, do you have everything you need? These are all things that you can think about before the meeting starts. Walking into that meeting when you’re truly ready to go shows all of the attendees that you are confident, prepared and that you’re serious about what the meeting is about.
What do you look like when you’re not ready? For me, when someone shows up to a meeting clearly not ready, there are some things that immediately go through my head on the individual. And these are all usually just natural opinions, I can’t help but think about these things. This person is disorganized, ill prepared, doesn’t really care to be here, isn’t serious about what they’re going to be discussing or the topics of the meeting. My trust in this individual is immediately tarnished. Not a good start.
When the event does start, show up with a presence that shows you’re there in that moment and you’re ready to go.
Being consistently on time and trustworthy helps nurture that long term relationship that you’re after. You absolutely need to be consistent in your project delivery, pricing models, communication plans, marketing and sales processes, and your messages at all times. Have some policies in place that help you maintain this consistency. Have your policies driven from inspiration by your company’s vision. When you have your company’s vision sound, and one that truly resonates with your culture and the problems you’re trying to solve, you can model policies for how that vision is delivered.
When the vision aligns with your culture, the policies you create for service, content and product delivery feel natural. This makes it almost effortless and second nature when you can consistently deliver whatever it is that you’re delivering.
Maintaining punctuality says to the customer that you mean business. They’re your number one priority. Isn’t that true anyways? So maintain that level of excellence and the rewards will come naturally. Eventually, you’ll build evangelists for your company and brand. All of this needs to fit in with your company culture and your team. This is everyone’s responsibility. The management team, customer support team, marketing team, executives, finance, maintenance. Everybody. When everyone is aligned with the company’s goals, being consistent comes as second nature.