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How to build trust in a world full of charlatans

Nick Hall By Nick Hall

If you’re the owner of a small business, with any luck someone like me has told you how important it is to pay as much attention to your brand as you do your business. The default position for most business owners is to put business decisions ahead of concerns over perception and positioning, but it must be said that failing to feed your brand every once in a while will make your business less profitable and - over the long haul - less valuable too.

One of the places where your business and your brand naturally intersect is in the fostering and maintenance of customer trust. Relationships of any sort are impossible to initiate or maintain without this most precious asset, so doing what you can to earn and keep it should be a top priority for every business owner.

Roughly cut, trust in your business is built through your process and policy decisions, while trust in your brand is the result of alignment between the promise you make in your marketing and the subsequent delivery of that promise. They intersect at the customer experience.

Have a look at the points below and see if there are any areas of your business that could do with a spit and polish. While researching this list I will confess to identifying a few ways in which we could be doing a better job of building and maintaining client trust here at Human. It’s far too easy to let things slip over time, and even easier to forget that customers are a finite resource.

1.) Admit mistakes - Fess up when you mess up, and be as proactive as you can be about it. Plan in advance which channels you will use to communicate with customers so you can react quickly when required.

2.) Be emotionally intelligent - Put yourself in your customer’s shoes every once in a while and consider how what you do makes them feel. Sometimes you’ll find a behaviour or process has been wedged into the customer experience where it doesn’t belong. Consider how Costco insists on cross-checking your receipt to your purchases as you leave as a glowing example of this.

3.) Be consistent - A cornerstone to trust building is consistency. If you’re inconsistent people worry about what to expect from you, and then you’re asking them to roll the dice every time they consider spending some money with you. One could argue that it is best to be consistently lousy than sporadically amazing, because at least people know what they’re getting into.

4.) Communicate clearly - Doublespeak or complex industry jargon has no place in trust building, and misleading or misinforming people - intentionally or otherwise - will do you no favours. As a general rule, people equate complexity with shiftiness. At least I do.

5.) Be true to your word - Deliver what you promise.

6.) Realize that building trust takes time - Have you ever signed up for something in store or online and then had to fend off emails from them every day, forcing you to unsubscribe and in doing so defeating all of their efforts to start a relationship? Do the opposite of that.

7.) Go above and beyond - Giving people a little more than they expect demonstrates that you are putting them first and foremost, and that’s a foundation for trust building.

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