“The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy. The essence of trust building is to emphasize the similarities between you and the customer.” – Thomas J Watson
Today, customers ‘call the shots’ in the business relationships, and only companies that have been able to nurture emotional connections and form bonds with their customers, would find repeated success. Such companies are able to grow and prosper even without reducing pricing, offering regular discounts and incentives, and engaging in promotional tactics. The reason for the success of such companies is that their customers trust them. As a company it is imperative to continually question whether your customers trust you, and if there be an iota of doubt on this front, your company must remedy it immediately. Without customer trust, a company cannot survive for too long, while with trust a company would be able to retain customers for life. Of course, building trust does not happen overnight or through one or two positive experiences. Instead, it takes time, effort, and tremendous amounts of hard work to build and sustain.
Your customers trust you only when everyone in the company works together cohesively to achieve their trust and your company provides consistently high standards of service, and transparent dealings, such as keeping promises and honest financial transactions. Many companies make the mistake of assuming that their customers trust them, simply because they continue to remain customers. However, the existing customers may be with a company either for want of a better one, or because their contract would still be active, or because no other company may be offering a particular product or service. While all these could be reasons for why customers stay with a company, these factors certainly do not mean that your customers trust you. Customer trust comes from the kind of experiences they have with a company, and hence it would be critical and prudent for a company to identify opportunities that would enhance the level of a customer’s trust in your company.
We have said before that any company would survive and thrive long term when it has at least some loyal customers. Loyalty happens when customers stay with a company for long, and to do so, they must like and trust a company. Hence, there is a strong correlation between customer trust and loyalty, and customers are quick to perceive feigned trustworthiness and swift to ‘punish’ companies that pretend. The questions commonly debated are whether it is possible for a company to know if customers trust it, and whether there is a way to predict customer trust. Experts believe that it is possible to ascertain whether your customers trust you or not. When customers trust a company, they will usually not spend time and resources to check and verify details that a company may provide – they would believe whatever a company told them. When customers rely on and believe a company, they would immediately take action – whether it is buying a product or service, or agreeing with the recommendation of a company, or providing positive comments about the company.
When your customers trust you, they would ask for advice and opinions because they would rely on the competence of the company. In addition, they would believe that the company would have only good intentions towards them, and that the company would have the ability to make true on any promises and commitments. As mentioned, for customers to interact regularly, a company would need to build a strong relationship with each one. The more customers interact, the higher would their expectations of sincerity and integrity be of a company. Customers expect companies to show trustworthiness in a proactive manner – that is, do things, which would give customers reason to trust them. Unfortunately, most companies today seem to fail on being trustworthy – this does not mean that they would be out to cheat customers, but it implies that companies do not have the capabilities to keep pace with the fast evolving needs of customers, and the hyper-interactive business world of today. The fact is if your customers trust you, their perceived value of the products and service offered by your company would be a lot higher as well. Research shows that if customers rated a company highly on trust, their ratings for the ‘perceived value’ of the company’s offering would be high too.
What can your company do to ensure that your customers trust you? The most basic and quintessential aspect in gaining customer trust is for a company to understand the expectations of its customers. Customers buy things based on a certain set of expectations they may have from the company and the offerings. The customer expectations are formed from the advertising and promotional activities of the company, from the customer’s past experience with the company, from the reviews of existing customers, and a number of other aspects, all of which would contribute to their expectations. However, when there is a gap between customer expectations and the experiences they have with a company, there is a definite erosion of satisfaction and trust levels. In order to ensure that your customers trust you, and continue to do so, it would be prudent for a company to ask customers what they expect, and what they believe would be the best way for the company to deliver on their expectations. Most often, companies would discover that ordinary and every day irregularities are the cause for dissatisfaction in customers – for example, inaccurate or delayed billing could be causing inconvenience to the customers.
In addition to understanding customer expectations, a company must also know whether its processes and procedures are causes for making the lives of customers easier, or reasons for upsetting them. It would be imperative for a company to ensure that it is easy for customers to conduct business with it, and that every touch-point in the company offers consistently good service to the customers. The company’s frontline service representatives should be knowledgeable, courteous, and friendly such that customers feel comfortable and welcome when interacting with them. The greater the warmth and comfort, the more likely it is that customers would trust the company, thereby offering more and repeat business. For your customers to trust you, it would be necessary to work at keeping them happy consistently. Monitoring customer buying patterns and their interactions with a company would provide sound leads as to whether customers would be likely to continue trusting the company, or whether they would soon leave out of frustration.
To know if your customers trust you, ensure that your company has a unique selling proposition (USP), which customers know of and understand clearly. A sound USP would let customers know why they should engage in business with a company as opposed to others in the market, and what benefits they would gain, which no one else in the market would be able to offer.
Do your customers trust you – this question applies to all companies and an affirmative answer would be essential in any business situation. If your customers trust you, they would respond in the affirmative when asked whether they think your company acts in their best interest. They would be enthusiastic about the company’s offerings and brand, and would be more than willing to spread the positive word of mouth, and even encourage their associates and friends to conduct business with the company. Meeting customer expectations, and finding ways to exceed them, is a sure way to create a company with a customer base consisting of raving fans and enthusiastic brand ambassadors. No business today would be able to survive for long if they do not have customer trust. Do your customers trust you?