Eight tips for building trust with customers and the role it plays in customer relationships
According to acclaimed American author Dr Stephen R. Covey, “trust is one of the most essential ingredients in effective communication and the foundational principle that holds all relationships, (business or otherwise), together.”
Essentially, trust is paramount in the customer-company relationship, yet not all businesses recognise just how easily it can be lost. We have seen many recent examples of companies losing their customer’s trust as a consequence of data breaches, privacy concerns and legal and independent investigations. In fact, in the recent Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report, only 54% of customers believed companies had their best interests in mind[i].
However, it seems that more than eight in ten small business leaders do in fact still value trust above all else in their relationships with customers, employees and vendors[ii]. So surely this trust deficit creates a prime opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves simply by being an organisation people can trust. But where do businesses start when it comes to gaining and maintaining it?
Here are eight tips businesses can use to get away from the starting line:
- Improve the security strategy – businesses are in a race to adopt the latest technologies to gain advantage over their competitors, but becoming more digitalised is also opening them up to an increasing threat landscape. It’s important that all businesses prioritise implementing appropriate, GDPR aligned security strategies alongside other technology investments and promote themselves as a company that takes security seriously, so that customers feel safe putting their data in their hands.
- Be transparent – no one likes being lied to, and, in the digital age, when a business is found out, there is no going back. Therefore, if something is not as expected or promised, and the business was at fault, it must own up quickly and advise customers as to how it will fix the matter for them efficiently. It should then keep the customer informed throughout the entire process, to ensure that the customer feels appropriately looked after.
- Deliver exceptional customer service – businesses should focus on each customer individually rather than rushing to get things done. Only when customers receive memorable, personalised and truly helpful customer service do they feel as though they can trust a brand with their problems. A telephony platform can be a great place to start by offering customer service agents a 360-degree view into all of the customers they speak to, from their previous interactions with the brand, right down to their preferences. At this level it’s about a business’ people and how they treat the customer. Companies shouldn’t assume their staff understand the impact and role they each play. Whilst obvious to some, it’s important they all receive the right training and leadership for delivering great customer experiences.
- Get on a level with the customer – businesses need to converge with their customers, so they can focus on solving their issues. One example of this in practice is real-time voice translation, which is a great way for global companies to break down language barriers – and this technology is just around the corner. Businesses should also consider changing channels to the most appropriate for the issue in question. Often a customer enquiry or problem will be delivered via email or a web form, but companies shouldn’t automatically assume it’s appropriate to continue on that channel. A particularly emotional customer may be better to speak to over the phone, for example, to ensure the situation is diffused and resolved quickly and empathically, without the risk of misunderstandings over email.
- Don’t leave customers in the dark – companies should send an email or pick up the phone to keep their customers proactively informed rather than wait for customers to come to them. What’s more, they should set expectations in mutual agreement with the client. Most of the time customers don’t need an answer in the next few hours, but if the business hasn’t set any expectation of when they will get a response, their confidence will very likely start to wane. By doing this, organisations also have the opportunity to overdeliver on the expectations set.
- Be available – organisations should make sure there are a handful of ways for customers to contact the business, whether that’s with more modernised channels like online chats, or a good old-fashioned phone number. However, many businesses often decide to adopt a wide range of channels in the belief that breadth is better – but as with anything, quality always wins out. When a customer sends a message to a company, whether it be via Twitter, web form or email, and doesn’t receive a response in a timely manner, frustration will only continue to mount. A business shouldn’t put too much weight on its shoulders and instead only open up the communication channels they have the manpower to monitor regularly.
- Post that feedback – all businesses should encourage customer feedback, good or bad. If they can show they can deal with negative reviews in a sensible and appropriate way, prospective customers can be sure it will be the same for them. There is nothing wrong with making a small mistake, but it’s how its dealt with it that is key.
- Share the human side of the business – not everyone has time for a chit chat, but it’s important to ensure that customers feel comfortable on the other end of the line. Companies should scrap the script and get to know who they’re talking to. They should be personable, use their name, be informed about the client and, where possible, adopt technology that can help staff with this personalisation even further. Wouldn’t it be great if, when a customer contacted a business, it knew they had an open issue, offered up a personalised menu addressing them by name and directed their call faster to an informed agent who was ready to help – ultimately avoiding that awkward and slow initial conversation where a frustrated customer has to repeat their issue time and time again?
Trust isn’t so hard to build, and it isn’t hard to maintain. All that’s required is a bit of time, effort and investment into the customer. But without that commitment, it is very easily lost. Customers today still report being regularly disappointed with customer service and experience. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing for all companies. Businesses should use it as an opportunity to excel and differentiate by being a provider that customers remember for the right reasons. Following the above eight tips is a great starting point to getting on the right track.