Trust must be earned. Not only is this a life lesson—the kind of aphorism my parents spouted when I asked to stay home alone overnight for the first time—but it’s also crucial to the foundation of your business. In his bestselling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, late author and entrepreneur Stephen Covey reinforced the importance of earning consumer trust. “Trust is the glue of life,” he wrote. “It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
Notice that Covey focuses on the keyword “relationships.” As awesome as your company is, it’s not all about you. Ideally, successful companies will form a relationship with their customers; whether through marketing campaigns, products and services or personal interactions. Some will be the professional equivalent of a longtime friend. Others will be more like the second-cousin-twice-removed you see once a year. Either way, a solid relationship is built on trust and honesty. When you have the trust of prospective customers, you make it easier for them to invest their time and/or money in you.
So, as professionals, how do we earn trust and bolster consumer confidence? Here are five ways we cultivate client relationships at Commit Agency.
- Ask for Feedback. Have you ever asked a friend about his or her experience with a company? Did you take their opinion of the business into consideration before committing? The best way to earn consumer trust without direct interaction is through testimonials and reviews of your business. According to a 2016 BrightLocal survey, 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as in-person recommendations. Encourage customers to share their experiences on sites such as Yelp or BBB.
- Keep Your Promises. If you advertise a service or feature, make sure you can deliver. On time. And with high quality. You don’t have to follow the “under promise, over deliver” mantra, but do avoid making promises you aren’t 99 percent sure you can keep.
- Get Social, Butterfly! Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Social media has become an integral part of daily life for many consumers. Every moment they spend Tweeting on lunch break or checking Facebook at stoplights provides an opportunity to engage. So, boost your own social media presence. Respond to consumer comments. The more positive interaction you have with potential and current customers, the more they will trust you.
- Be Consistent. We regularly frequent national food chains like Applebee’s and Chili’s, even though the grub isn’t exactly Food Network worthy. Why? Every time you order the latter’s Baby Back Ribs, they taste the same. Consumer surveys like this 2014 McKinsey comparison consistently (see what we did there?) show a strong correlation between consistency and consumer satisfaction. This applies to everything from brand marketing to service and product manufacturing.
- Fight Fires Immediately (But Not with Fire). Not every customer will be 100 percent satisfied all the time. He, or she, might rant a bit on social media. (Or, if they’re totally old-school, send a “nastygram” via email/snail mail/stone tablet.) Address concerns quickly and concisely. Recognize their concerns and offer possible solutions. Respond publicly, but without getting emotional. While Amy’s Baking Company gained micro-fame in 2013 after their hot-headed retorts to customer complaints went viral, their business also tanked. No one trusts a Crazy Amy.
There’s one key tenet to keeping trust once you’ve earned it. And no, it isn’t “don’t ever screw up.” Companies occasionally make mistakes, just like people. The secret is: Commit to keep trying. Trust comes in layers. Once you build that initial trust, it will continue to grow with each effort you make. Deliver on promises. Interact. Remain consistent. Address any challenges or setbacks as they come up and your relationship will have the best chance to grow.