A quality that takes time to earn and can be quick to lose. It’s the most important attribute of any business. With trust, you gain long-term relationships that help grow your business, without it you’re left in a downward spiral. There’s good news though! You and your employees are the ones responsible for sculpting a trusted relationship with your customers, and there are a lot of small (and big) ways to earn that trust.
Sometimes gaining the trust of the people around you can be easy, sometimes not so much, but over the years, I’ve found there are a few tried-and-true ways to have your business become that trusted rock in your customers’ lives.
As a business owner, of course you want to gain–and keep–the trust of all your customers and constituents. To do that, you have to deliver consistent levels of service and quality products and services, PLUS be reactive to your customers’ changing needs. You want to be an integrated part of their solution, both now and in the future.
In the age of customers posting dissatisfied experiences on social media, keeping your business insulated from the impact of potential attacks begins with how you conduct yourself on a daily basis. Trust goes beyond the four walls of your (brick and mortar) business. Your reputation precedes you with your customers; on the sidewalks in your community and in the cyberworld. That means you need consistency in every faction of your business. If you are ever in a situation where you make a mistake or deliver a sub-par product (which has happened to every business at one time or another), make sure to fix the issue quickly, apologize (without passing blame), and make sure it doesn’t happen again. You gain reputation by being consistent. Being consistent builds trust. Being trustworthy improves your reputation. It’s a virtuous cycle.
It has been my experience, that customers expect that they can depend on you, and they won’t (and shouldn’t) settle for less. Let’s face it, we all have too many things to think about. Between our personal and professional lives, life is busy and unpredictable, so make sure that you and your customers are on the same page. This means constant communication that is easy to understand and clearly lays out what your customers can expect from you. Miscommunication not only wastes time, but impedes trust. Knowing you can be the solid rock in which they can always depend upon–even for the simplest of things–gives them peace of mind. Good, consistent communication shows you are dependable, and thus, earns you a higher level of trust long-term.
Being honest with your customers, sometimes even painfully so, can go a long way in earning their trust. This can mean delivering the tough answers they don’t want to hear. Every time you come to an agreement with a customer, even if it’s verbal or simply understood, you are setting expectations. When you set those expectations, do everything in your power to exceed them.
That doesn’t mean setting the bar low on performance. That means always going the extra mile to impress those with whom you do business…so that they keep coming back. “Under-promise and over-deliver.” Likewise, if you make a promise, keep it. Never ever make a promise you cannot keep. Your customers expect you to be honest in both words and actions.
Each time you interact with a customer, it should be a memorable experience for them. If someone feels special and leaves with a smile on their face, they’re going to remember the way you made them feel. If you go out of your way to make sure they are not only satisfied, but impressed, they’re going to trust your business to ‘do right by them’ and come back again and again.
To create a valuable, memorable experience for your customers, show them you appreciate their business, but also appreciate them as a person. See them as more than a source of revenue. Care for the person first, then worry about the business aspect of the relationship. This is vital to becoming part of their trusted team.
Understanding the full picture of your customer’s business will help you provide better input and more reliably positive solutions. When your customer has a question or problem related to an area where your business can provide a solution, you want them to think of you as their expert advisor. You may even find them coming to you for advice on other completely out-of-the-box matters, seeking your opinion and guidance. When this happens, the relationship deepens and you are more than just a product or service provider to them.
Another example may be when a long-term customer finds themselves in tough times. Going out of your way to help–even if that means a temporary setback for your company–will show your loyalty to them. By standing by them and providing them with the assistance your business can offer, they will be grateful and even more loyal to you when the rough patch is over. Remember, every business can have setbacks, including your own.
When you treat your employees well, it shows. If your employees feel valued and respected, they pass that goodwill on to your customers. Happy employees create better experiences for your customers, which in turn, keeps your customers coming back.
By investing in your employees and helping them grow their careers, you are earning their trust and loyalty, too. If you’ve ever been in a business that has a high rate of turnover, with new faces each time you visit, you have to wonder why. Why aren’t the employees staying? Is there something else going on that would make you think you should take your business elsewhere?
Keeping employee attrition low is beneficial in so many ways. It creates a consistent, reliable experience for your customers; they see the same faces each time and your employees will know each customer’s expectations. This further builds your reputation for being a reliable business.
Trust created between you and your customers is something that cannot just happen without a combination of initiatives, all of which come from the core of your company. There are no shortcuts. The beauty is, you are responsible for how your reputation will be sculpted. The question then becomes, how can you and your business become the rock your customers’ trust?
Andrew Hasley, CPA, MBA, is the president of Standard Bank. He is a seasoned executive in the financial institution industry and maintains a strong dedication to supporting local communities. Andy takes pride in connecting with customers, ensuring that Standard Bank is their first call when seeking financial advice. His confident, hands-on, open-minded style combined with the belief that a happy, well-trained, disciplined, and accountable workforce will result in a high degree of customer satisfaction and company success, has proven to be very effective. Andy is a board member of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and serves on the Community Depository Institution Advisory Counsel to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.