A customer’s first purchase might be a leap of faith. Everything that happens after that is driven largely by how successfully you maintain – and protect – their faith in you.

Before your customer buys again – or recommends you to anyone else – they need to believe that your brand is reliable, that your brand messages have proven to be true, that what they bought is, indeed, what you sold them and, above all else, if it isn’t, you’ll make it right.

It’s called trust. And it takes time, focus, and yes, some financial investment, to maintain a reputation for trustworthiness. Here are the five most important things you and your team can do to build, sustain, and protect your customers’ trust.

  1. Be Consistent.
    One guaranteed way to damage customer trust is to by delivering inconsistent service – or a customer experience that is inconsistent with the brand promise. Yet in an omnichannel world, delivering consistently superior experiences, every time, across all channels, is increasingly difficult to achieve. Once you have a clearly articulated vision and brand promise, communicate them everywhere, internally and externally, formally and informally. Establish performance and employee experience standards that empower all team members to deliver seamless service. Then deliver the training, tools, and coaching your customer contact team will need to stay on the same page and deliver on your brand promise.
  2. Be Known for Integrity and Transparency
    Believe it or not, today’s customers – your customers – can tell when you’re not being completely up front with them. But think of it this way, even if a customer is unaware that they got terrible service, or a wrong answer, or a bad deal, they’ll soon figure it out. Someone will tell them. Or, more likely, they’ll piece it together during a routine online search. And once a customer feels misled or otherwise taken advantage of, it’s the beginning of the end for your relationship with them. I’m not talking only about being truthful. I’m talking about taking the easy way out when a customer issues feels difficult to resolve. One of your most vulnerable areas in this regard is your inbound customer care operation. As Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame has proven to us all, supervising and rewarding phone agents on efficiency and cost savings alone leads to a culture that is apathetic to customer needs and soon erodes their trust. Build teams that are empowered to do whatever it takes to solve the customer’s issues. Never tolerate anyone in your organization hiding mistakes or ducking responsibility. Lead by example, reward integrity, and maintain a zero tolerance approach for anything less.
  3. Communicate Thoroughly and Thoughtfully
    Never in human history has it been this easy and quick to communicate with customers. But it’s never been this complex (or risky), either. While social media makes it possible for any organization of any size to get their message out at lightening speed, that very ease and speed can lead to carelessness. Last-minute, top-of-the-head messaging may seem cute at the time – or like a smart way to maintain maximum visibility. But it isn’t. Inevitably, that kind of recklessness undermines customer trust. (You can’t promote yourself as reliable when some of your messaging seems utterly untethered to your brand promise.) Develop specific communication standards that provide clear guidance on brand, message, and tone. Whenever there is news that your customers need to know, be sure you’re the first one to tell them, in your words, your voice, and your way, before they get wind of it from anywhere or anyone else.
  4. Be a Trusted Protector of Data and Privacy
    Whether it’s a social security number, a credit card, or just an email address, every customer wants to be reassured that you value their trust and you’ll protect the information they share with you. Recent studies – and countless headlines – suggest that customers today do not expect a world with 100% data security. But they do expect that the companies with which they do business will honor their commitments, maintain the highest possible levels of investments in security, and will never abuse their contact information by selling it or spamming it. Create a powerful first impression of trustworthiness by earning and displaying trust seals for data security on your website.
  5. Deliver a Great Experience, Every Time
    You may have the world’s most reliable product. But nothing – and nobody – is perfect. So how do you handle issues? Customer complaints? Employee concerns? Bad press? Do you clam up, get defensive, reassure the troops that “there’s nothing to see here, folks?” Trust is all important. It’s also so very fragile. While any customer will be disappointed, maybe even frustrated, when something goes wrong, they rarely expect you to be flawless. They just expect you to demonstrate immediate care, knowledge, transparency, and, above all else, a willingness to resolve the issue, no matter how long it takes. Customer care is never the place to save money. It’s the place to invest your best people and your greatest investment.

 

by Bobby Matthews
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Skybridge Americas

bmatthews@skybridgeamericas.com


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