If you have been in business for some time you have known the pain of customer betrayal. A customer that you believed you served well just re-purchased from someone else, and you wondered how that could happen. Trust is the foundation of all business relationships and may be the most powerful asset we possess. And when it is absent, we notice.
In business and personal relationships, trust creates the foundation for satisfaction, loyalty and longevity. In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey asserts that the cost of doing business goes down when people trust each other. The time it takes to close a deal, manage an employee or solve a problem decreases when trust is high. Trust saves and makes money.
Have you considered how trustworthy your most important business relationships are? Take a few minutes to run your relationships through this TRUST checklist. Understanding The 5 Pillars of Trust will change your life and your customer relationships.
The 5 Pillars of Trust
Transparency: In every business transaction things can go wrong. How you deal with problems is what instills trust and loyalty. Developing trust with our customers starts from the first contact and extends through service delivery, implementation, care and support. At each step, you can either damage or enhance this experience for your customers. Be specific and clear with what you can and cannot deliver. Having clarity with your promises to customers is vital if you want to be trusted.
Reciprocity: Every high-trust business relationship must have the capacity to be responsive to each member’s felt and real needs. Your customers find you because they need your product or service. Make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial by getting feedback from customers who are making a leap to trust you. Trust is about showing your customers that you care about them and the things they care about. In turn, your customers will care about and trust you.
Understanding: In our most trusted relationships, we maintain trust when we hear the other person respond to us with compassionate understanding. When we don’t feel understood we will shut down and stop sharing. In relationships with customers, be tolerant of mistakes and look to understand all perspectives in a disagreement. Be aware that some customers show hurt from past negative experiences that may have affected their ability to trust. Use words to reinforce that you understand, such as, “Do you feel I understand what you have told me?” Consider alternatives for problems when they can’t be resolved by typical methods. Remember, trust is built over time.
Safety: Trustworthy relationships are safe. They protect the sacredness of our deepest secrets. They never use our words against us. They nurture and defend us. Trustworthy people always tell the truth. They have values that lead them to place the interests of others ahead of their own. To increase feelings of safety in your relationships, be generous and forgiving when someone else makes a mistake or disappoints you in some way. People who always jump to the worst conclusion about a person’s competence or motivation inspire wariness, not trust. Most people don’t set out to be mean, so assume positive intent. Give them the benefit of the doubt until you have contrary information that proves you wrong. You'll feel better about them, and they'll trust you for your generosity.
Time: Time management is a measure of trust. We only have a limited number of hours in this life, and people we trust appreciate and steward the time we offer them. They also manage their time well in their personal lives and in their places of employment. We are living in a world where the speed of life leaves little margin. When customers change their schedule to spend time with you, this change in many cases is a compromise of some other activity. To earn the trust of others, you will be well-served to raise your awareness of other people’s time, personal schedule and needs. Promptly return phone calls and reply to emails, thoroughly addressing all points raised. Be on time for meetings, and log on to a scheduled call two minutes in advance of start time. Ask for and stick to meeting end times, and inquire if attendees are free to keep going.
Deliver the unexpected If you are practicing The 5 Pillars of Trust, the best way to seal trust is to surprise and delight clients and customers. Serve them with excellence in what they asked for, but also deliver more. Patiently give more time, more understanding, more convenience and more sensitivity. Delivering more than they expect goes a long way and adds real value and trust.