I had a professor in college once say, “You can live with someone you don’t love, but you can’t live with someone you don’t trust.”
In this case, what’s true in personal relationships is true in business. There is no more valuable business asset than the trust you earn from your customers. Trust is what keeps them coming back. Trust is what makes them tell their friends. Trust is everything.
Think of trust like a bank account. Anytime you do something to earn your customers’ trust, a deposit is made. Anytime something goes wrong trust is withdrawn.
You should always be striving to put money in the trust bank with your clients.
So how do you gain your customers’ trust and keep your balance on the rise? Here are some time tested ways:
1) Be on time
If you are late you have told a lie, and a withdrawal is made. An appointment is a promise to be at a specific place at a specific time, and when you break that promise, it chips away at the strength of your word. If they cannot trust your word on this little thing, it will color their trust of you in other, more significant ones.
This sounds harsh, but it matters. It is not cute when you rush into the room out of breath and full of excuses. If you are chronically late, fix it. And by the way, if you are going to be unavoidably late, simply tell your customer. Which brings us to the next point.
2) Communicate like crazy
There is no reason anymore your clients should not be kept in the loop at all times. We now have at our disposal dozens of ways for communicating instantly, so avail yourself of them. Ignorance breeds anxiety and anxiety kills trust, so empower your clients with information. Let them tell you if they need less communication. In general, though, if the question is, “Should I communicate more with my client?”, the answer is almost always “Yes”. Deposit, deposit, deposit.
3) Return Calls and Emails Quickly
Along the same lines, make a point to, if at all possible, address calls and emails same day. Even if you can’t answer your client’s question at the moment, simply send a reply “I got your message, and I’ll get back to you ASAP.” This closes the loop on that particular communication and doesn’t leave your client wondering. Never leave your client wondering.
This also shows you are paying attention to your clients’ needs, a crucial component of trust building. It’s like money in the trust bank.
4) Manage Expectations
Every game needs ground rules. They provide structure, let us know who does what and when we are doing well. You should set clear expectations with your clients well before you begin work – what they can expect to get from you and what they cannot. If there are ambiguities at the outset, THEY WILL NOT GET BETTER AS YOU GO ALONG. What will happen is your client will expect one thing and you will deliver another. What ensues is confusion, frustration, disappointment, even anger, all of which are disastrous to the trust your customer might have felt for you. Huge withdrawal.
Before work begins, be meticulous about writing a clear, realistic scope of work and have your client sign off on it. This will be your best friend when you are weeks into the project and things get fuzzy. It’s like finding money in your account you forgot was there. Score!
5) Be a finisher.
Clients don’t remember you for how you start, but for how you finish. The end result is what lasts, literally and figuratively. It is easy to be a superhero early on when everyone is excited and there is a new project on the table. But the real pros grind out excellent work all the way to the finish line. Dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Your clients will trust your ability to deliver, and tell others about you. And that makes for real money in the bank.
Trust is everything in business, so work hard to earn it. When things go kaflooey (and they will from time to time), you’ll be glad you had some cient trust in reserve.
Thanks for reading.
Do you have any other tips for building client trust? Please share!