Honesty is the best policy, but
trust levels in corporate America remain at an all-time low...
A recent US Supreme Court decision deemed big corporations "are people, too". Meanwhile, trust in national and multi-national companies continues to plummet.
Whether you run a traditional brick-and-mortar store or an online business, today's competitive advantage can be found in great customer service.
Are YOUR customers satisfied? Do they feel like they're getting your personal attention?
Herein lies the secret that allows small businesses to compete with a growing number of mega-corporations that lack the trust factor.
Earn your customers' trust and keep them coming back for more with these tips from a marketing expert:
Cultivating the Trust Factor in Your Business
In today's highly competitive economy, it is difficult to maintain a significant market advantage based on your professional skills alone. Developing professional relationships with your customers is key to your success.
No matter what business you are in, the most powerful value-added
you can contribute in any customer service business strategy is the "trust factor".
The level of confidence in corporate America is at an all-time low, and
suspicion of all things corporate is on the rise.
"How do you build trust with customers? First, you need
to really care about them..."
Customers and prospects are in search of reliability and credibility in
their business dealings. Although people do business with other people they know and can rely on, building this solid foundation
does not happen overnight.
Why is something as personal as trust important in a business environment? Trust
can be defined as a firm belief in the honesty of another and the absence of suspicion regarding his motives or practices. The
concept of trust in business dealings is simple: Build on an individual's confidence in you and eliminate fear as an operating principle.
To cultivate trust, take the risk of being open with customers and prospects.
This enables them to perceive you as a real personone with strengths and weaknesses that come into play as the business relationship develops. When trust is reciprocal, you will find that your confidence in others is rewarded by their support and reinforcement of what you also stand for as a business entity.
Letting go of fear Let go of fear, which restricts your ability to relate to others. Letting go frees you of behavioral constraints that can immobilize your professional development. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being hurt, fear of the unknownall these are roadblocks to developing and growing a trusting relationship with your customers. Let go of your fear of losing an account or not having the right answers. Leave all your fears at the customer's or prospect's doorstep.
Other critical steps in cultivating business trust are knowing who you are and
knowing your potential value to your customers. The interaction that results from this can have a tremendous impact on your sales.
People don't just buy from anyone. They buy from people they can trust. The rapport and credibility you establish with the
trust factor go a long way toward building customer confidence in your ability to meet all of the business needs.
Trust has both an active and a passive component in a business relationship.
The active feeling of trust is confidence in your leadership, veracity, and reliability, based on a track record of performance.
Never ignore the passive feeling of trust. This is absence of worry or suspicion may be unrecognized or taken for granted in our most productive relationships, but it is the foundation that long lasting business interactions are built on.
Building trust with care How do you build trust with customers? First, you need to really care about them. Obviously, your customers care about your knowledge, expertise, and accomplishments. However, they care even more about the level of concern you have for them. Successful trust-building hinges on four actions: engaging, listening, framing, and committing. The trust factor can be realized once we understand these components of trust and incorporate them in our business dealings.
"In the final analysis, business trust stems
from keeping our word..."
Engaging customers and prospects occurs when you show genuine concern and interest in their business and its problems. Maintain good eye contact and body posture. Good eye contact signifies openness and honesty.
Your body language and other forms of nonverbal communication speak volumes about your attitude toward them. By the same token,
you want to be aware of eye contact and body language in your customers or potential customers. What they don't say can speak
Listening with understanding and empathy is possible if you think customer
focus first. Let the customer tell his story. Put yourself in his shoes when you listen to his business concerns, purpose, vision,
and desires. Show approval or understanding by nodding your head and smiling during the conversation. Separate the process of taking
in information from the process of judging it. Just suspend your judgment and focus on the customer.
Framing what the customer or prospect has said is the third action in trust-building. Make sure you have formed an accurate understanding of his problems and concerns. Confirm what you think you heard by asking open-ended questions such as What do you mean by that? or Help me to understood the major production problems you are experiencing. After you have clarified the problems, start to frame them in order of importance. By identifying the areas in which you can help the customer, you offer her clarity in her own mind and continue to build her trust.
Committing to customers
Committing is the final action for developing the trust factor. Communicate
enthusiastically your plan of action for solving the customer's problems. Help the customer see what it will take to achieve the
end result. Presumably, what you have said up to this point has been important, but what you do nowhow you commitis
even more important. Remember the old adage Action speaks louder than words. Show you want this customer's business
long term. Complete assignments and projects on budget and on time. Then follow up with customers periodically to see how your
partnership is faring.
In the final analysis, business trust stems from keeping our word. If we say
we will be there for our customers, then we should honor that commitment...by being there. Trust results from putting the customer's best interest before our own, from being dependable, from being open and forthcoming with relevant information. It is impossible
to overestimate the power of the trust factor in our professional lives. Truly, trust is the basis of all enduring, long-term business
About the Author... Robert Moment is with The Moment Group, a small business coaching and consulting firm that specializes in helping small businesses and independent professionals win federal contracts without struggling.