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“Give trust, and you’ll get it double in return” – KEES KAMIES

Running a business is a tough job. It requires gumption and the trust of people who work with you and buy from you – your customers. Unless customers like you and can trust you, it is unlikely that they would continue to do business with you. Getting a customer to buy from you is not a game of winning and losing but rather one of trust and a strong relationship. The companies that make it about selling and winning are most likely to meet with ‘mental barriers’ and could even end up losing customer trust. While losing customer trust may be easy, regaining it might not that be easy.

It would be wise for companies to keep dishonesty and lack of transparency away from their company. The truth is that distrust exacts a very heavy and arduous price that is often very tough for companies (or anyone) to overcome. A lack of trust in customers has many a backlash.

– When customers lack trust in a company, the relationship is often distracted to a point where both customers and companies lost sight of what is truly important and become focused on ‘covering their backs’.

– A lack of trust will make customers focus on the shortcomings of the company leading to disharmony and indecision causes a serious dent in the relationship.

– Lack of trust breaks down communication and keeps focus on trivial matters and fault picking

– Distrust causes customers to be in constant disagreement with the company, viewing them as a foe instead of a partner and ally.

– Distrust reduces the value-add companies are willing to provide to ‘nagging’ customers, which in a short while worsens the relationship. The company loses the will to be competitive with the particular customer.

– Not being able to trust a company is simply a cause for provoking anxiety and putting a dampener on the relationship. It would be better to stop doing business than indulging in one that is so draining and encumbering.

Companies and customers must give due importance to trust. For companies especially, losing customer trust would kill their business aspirations, cripple the relationships and strip their company of the reputation built judiciously over years. When customers begin leaving, even the best and longest serving employees begin to doubt the company’s intentions. Is this enough to grab the attention of companies and make them work towards not losing customer trust? Customer trust is what will define your business’ personality and its success. Trust at large and in particular customer trust for companies is a soft issue and must be handled with a lot of care and the knowledge that everything the company has built over time can be wrecked if they succeed in losing customer trust. Wouldn’t it be better to work towards retaining it than having to work doubly hard to regain it?

The reality is that losing customer trust does not happen suddenly and neither does it happen without a warning. It starts with minor lapses that the customer may overlook and the company too, conveniently decides to sweep this ‘tiny’ mistake under the carpet. Despite the error being small, customers do expect that the company would apologise and make it right. Ignoring this expectation several times, could lead customers to start distrusting the company by communicating less frequently, responding sporadically to engagement requests and providing less information than before. When a company is losing customer trust they should also watch out for signs like high degrees of suspicion, increased complaints and low attention to requests. Customers would spend more time asking companies to take corrective action rather than appreciating attempts at value-added service. Companies would find themselves spending more energy in getting across to a customer to ascertain their needs with lesser success rates. These signs are the red flags and companies that pay attention to them sooner would find it easier to regain the lost trust.

Companies end up losing customer trust for a number of reasons but falling short by failure to listen and or respond to the customer is probably the toughest reason to recover from. Customers are known to forgive companies for errors if they listened and responded in time to salvage the situation. Your company could have made a product that the customers failed to be impressed with but if you are listening to them via their comments or their responses in feedback surveys, it would be easy to regain the trust they lost in you due to the mismatched product or offering. Through swift responses, companies can tell the customers that they are worthy of being trusted and are reliable and that the customers opinion is of great importance to them. Customers may not always be ready to forgive and the most unwanted result of losing customer trust is that over time sales decline, customers start looking at alternatives and ultimately there is no trust left and the customer decides to switch its ‘business partner’ giving its business to your competitor.

The most practical and best way to salvage lost customer trust is to be honest and whole-heartedly acknowledge your mistake. Your company would need to tell the customer that you understand that a problem exists and that you are committed to resolving it and ensuring that there is no reoccurrence. How soon your customer trusts you again will depend on the strength of the relationship you had with the customer. High-value customers especially can be tougher to deal with. It would require your company to make time to meet them and discuss the issues and provide many different solutions for them to choose from. Only through continuous reassurance and reinforcement of your customer’s value can you avoid losing customer trust permanently. Don’t let the sheer magnitude of the task deter you in your resolve to regain this valuable asset.

Ensure that internally too, your employees have all the information, technology and assistance they need to do a good job. It is especially tough for customer service personnel assigned to contact irate customers and those who have lost trust in your company. These personnel must be briefed adequately on how to conduct this ‘difficult conversation’ and also provided with the leeway to make spot decisions if it means regaining the customer’s trust and business.

Companies must be upright enough to tell customers that they are aware that they have lost the customer’s trust and that they are willing to understand why they lost it and that customers give them another chance to prove their loyalty and honesty. This is vital to regaining the lost trust. Listen carefully to what the customer says and be prepared to hear some harsh feedback. Repeat your understanding to the customer and then make the appropriate changes that you know will meet their expectations. Inform the customer of the actions put in place, ascertain that the customer considers the actions adequate and ensure that you continue to pay close attention – trust is a fragile thing, easily broken but difficult to mend or regain.

The key factor to regaining customer trust is analysing the root cause of how and why you lost that trust to start with. Get your customers to provide their most candid feedback, act on it and ensure that there is no break or let up in building up on the lost trust. Customers will be able to amply perceive your intentions and would even be willing to stand by you in times of crisis. Regaining customer trust is all about being able to comprehensively understand the customer, know what truly matters to them and giving it to them with much more.

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