Are you building trust?
Trust is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days – perhaps more than it’s practiced. As one client mentioned to me recently: We don’t need to ask our customers to “trust us” as long as we are demonstrating why they should.
Trust researcher Adam Waytz of the Kellogg School of Management writes that the four key components of trust are integrity, competence, predictability and benevolence. Other studies demonstrate that from a science point of view, the hormone oxytocin increases trust by suppressing the neural systems that regulate our fear of betrayal. In other words, gain our trust and we let our guards down.
Grounding our brand by these themes can go a long way to building longer-term trust relationships. From my experience, a few examples:
- Focus on your employees
The Edelman Trust Barometer, a fascinating annual global analysis of trust indicates people trust their own employers more than the media, government, other businesses or even NGOs. It’s a powerful responsibility: our employees can be our greatest spokespeople – or our worst PR nightmare, because once we lose their trust, it’s tough to gain it back. It starts with transparency: create opportunities to give and receive feedback. Invest in their development. Ensure systems to promote healthy work-life balance. Say thank you once in a while. Strive to keep them: reduced employee turnover shows your staff and your customers that your organization has stability.
- Promise what you can deliver, and deliver what you promise
This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the desire to sound better than the competition, it can be easy to over-promise. I’ve learned this is especially true in my business, when new, highly specialized areas of marketing are emerging every day. You can’t always “fake it until you make it”. Stay in your lane and focus on improving internal processes so that you can meet or even over-perform what you promised.
- Fix your mistakes properly
Mistakes will happen in any business. Owning it and taking responsibility can build a more solid trust foundation with a customer than if it hadn’t happened at all, because it demonstrates integrity. Deal with the error quickly, avoid laying blame, evaluate it carefully and circle back with the customer—not only to make sure they’re satisfied with the outcome, but to communicate how you’ve changed your business to prevent the problem in the future.
- Engage in community
Three-quarters of people believe businesses can make money as well as improve society. In other words, they want companies to tackle public issues. What are the values that drive your organization? While financial donations are an important aspect of corporate social responsibility, there is an increasing desire in customers to see organizations investing in systems of change. This may mean a long-term partnership with a non-profit, a change in your value chain and sourcing, or even a shift in organizational goals and mission.
- Communicate effectively
Let your customers, employees and stakeholders know what’s going on. They want to know that your organization prioritizes more than a large profit at the end of the year. Blogs and newsletters are great ways to share internal processes, training, community involvement, and more. Tell the stories of your people, your customers and your community. This humanization will help your customers see the faces behind your purpose, fostering trust and connection.
- Focus on retention
I’ve fallen into the thrill trap of pursuing new clients at the risk of properly nurturing the ones we already have. Focusing on retention makes good financial sense: returning customers spend up to a third more than new customers. A customer that trusts our brand will tell others. What do retention programs look like? It starts with exceptional customer service, staying in touch, asking the tough questions and acting on the answers, and saying thanks with gifts or loyalty programs.
How do you build trust?