Trust is the binding force of great relationships. When trust increases, communication is more effective and understanding in enhanced. This leads to greater cooperation and better solutions, especially in sales and customer service situations. Since most people won’t buy from someone they don’t trust, building and maintaining a strong bond of trust is essential for developing long term customer satisfaction and loyalty. Fortunately, it is possible to consciously build trust in a very short time by following five simple trust building principles:
Trust Builder No. 1: Integrity
Integrity encompasses professionalism, conscientiousness, and above all, honesty. We should never lie to our customers, but we do need to be judicious at times as to what we tell them and how.
For example, I was coaching an inside salesperson for an electrical parts distributor (we’ll call him Mario), and he received an inbound call from one of his customers (whom we’ll call Louie). Louie was calling about one of the distributor’s vendors, a wire manufacturer. This is how the dialogue went:
“Mario – it’s Louie.”
“Louie, my friend – how are you today?”
“I’m good, but I’m trying to get some information about Acme wire. I’ve called them three times in the past week and left messages and I haven’t heard back from them once. What the heck’s going on?”
“Oh – sorry about that, Louie. You should have called me. Those guys at Acme are weasels – they never get back to customers. Even I have a hard time getting information from them sometimes.”
“Is that right? Well, that’s very interesting. Thanks, Mario. You know what? If that’s their attitude, I don’t think I’ll be buying their wire anymore. I’ll call you later.”
With that the call ended, and Louie headed off to buy from the competition. Mario was devastated. He thought he was acting with integrity by telling Louie the truth, which he was. Unfortunately, he completely undermined the integrity of the manufacturer to the point where Louie went and bought from the competition. So, while we should never lie to a customer, we do sometimes need to be careful in how we relate information. As my lawyer once said to me: “Derrick, you should never lie, but there are a hundred ways to tell the truth.”
In Mario’s case, how could he have handled the situation differently to maintain the customer’s trust, not just in himself, but also in the manufacturer? By simply saying: “No problem, Louie – tell me what you need, and I’ll get that information for you and call you back by noon.” Problem solved for Louie, Mario retains control of the situation, and trust is maintained all around.
Trust Builder No. 2: Competence
Competence is demonstrating to the customer that you have the knowledge and ability to help them. Stay abreast of the latest knowledge of your industry and products. Ask clarifying questions for anything you don’t fully understand. Show that you are a competent listener by repeating information back to customers, and summarizing content at the end of a dialogue. Don’t bluff your way through questions that you don’t know the answers to. Instead tell customers you want to double check the information to make sure you are giving them the right answers.
Trust Builder No. 3: Empathy
The Harvard Business School once identified “I understand…” as the two most important words in business. Empathy is showing other people that you understand their emotions and problems. It allows you to display a genuine concern for the customer’s welfare, and a sincere commitment to acting in their best self interests. Discover why people are feeling the way they are, and why they need what they are asking for, and do what you can to help them. For more on this topic, see our previous blog: How to turn $5,000 into $8 Million with one simple question.
Trust-builder No.4: Dependability
Demonstrate that you can be trusted to follow through on your promises. Do what you say you will, when you say you will, and how you say you will. Nothing will break trust faster than breaking a promise, and as Debbie Harry sang in Blondie’s hit Heart of Glass: “Once you mistrust, love’s gone behind.” Don’t just tell customers what they want to hear. Give them realistic expectations as to what will happen to give yourself the best chance to display your dependability.
Trust-builder No. 5: Likeability
It’s been said many times: “All other things being equal, people prefer to do business with people they like.” There are many factors that contribute to how likeable you are as a person, but in the context of relationships with your customers, these factors encompass courtesy, respect, remembering names and key facts, treating each customer as special, and being interested in them and their lives. (Watch for more on this in a future blog).
To sum up, act with integrity, show you are competent, demonstrate empathy, be dependable, and be likeable, and you will build a lasting bond of trust with customers that will ensure they remain loyal to you and your company for the long term.
The five trust builders. Try them – they work!