How to win – or lose – customer trust

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As online reviews rise in popularity and customers are faced with never-ending options, establishing your business’ credibility is becoming increasingly important for future success. And this couldn’t be truer for small businesses. To drive new and repeat sales, you need to have a positive brand reputation that’s both visible to prospective customers and worth sharing by your current customers.

While you may have the best product or service on the market, customer trust is built throughout the entire journey—from first contact to final purchase. If you offer a great experience from beginning to end that builds trust within your customer base, they will be more likely to return and become advocates for your brand, which will continue to build your credibility when they tell their friends and family or, better yet, leave a positive review.

Below are the ways you can build (or destroy) that customer trust, which is so critical for your future success:

Ways to gain customer trust…

  • You provide outstanding customer service. Whether you went into business to become your own boss or because you had a skill you could monetize, chances are it wasn’t because of a customer service background. However, customer service has been known to make or break businesses, so it’s important to remember that every interaction you have with a potential or current customer can make a lasting impression. Being friendly, attentive, and authentic in every customer interaction goes a long way for building customer trust.

  • You have a clear satisfaction guarantee—and you honor it. Especially when trying something new, prospective customers feel at ease knowing that they have a fallback guarantee in case the service doesn’t meet their expectations. If customers are dissatisfied with your products or services, even if you’re confident the error is on their end, you’ll need to find a way to make it right if you want them to return (and, even better, share their positive experience with their networks).

  • You have a credible online presence. Most of your customers will do an online search before trusting you with their business, so you want to make sure your website emphasizes your reliability, quality of service, and satisfaction guarantee. Having customer testimonials and reviews both on your website and on review sites make a significant impact on your brand perception to potential customers.

  • Your social media hits the mark. In a world of online sharing, it’s important that your social media pages emphasize the same credibility as your website and serve as an additional touchpoint for your customers. Go above and beyond and try to respond to customer posts within 24 hours to show you’re attentive to their needs. But don’t just be reactive, be proactive too by sharing helpful information or tips related to your products and services.

…and ways to lose it

  • Your marketing is overly promotional. While everyone loves a discount, having a highly promotional website can often make customers wonder “What’s the catch?” Naturally, when seeing unbelievably low prices, people can associate it with value being low as well. Be strategic about when you have sales to avoid creating this perception.

  • Your final prices are unclear. If your prices seem unfair, or if they don’t reflect any large fees, your customers will feel like they were tricked, which is not the association you want them to have with your brand. Make any fees clear upfront, so customers know what to expect when making their final transaction.

  • Your customer interactions feel generic. Whether it be through email, your Facebook page, or on the phone, you want to make sure you’re tailoring your communications with your customer at every touchpoint possible. A big reason people come to small businesses is for the personalized interaction, so don’t eliminate that differentiator by making your responses automated.

  • You have a broken website or incorrect details. Your potential customers need to feel like you’re there for them and that they can contact you. If they can’t find your contact details or they’re out of date, they’ll be more likely to take their business elsewhere. Having an updated “Contact Us” page alleviates this communication barrier.

At the end of the day, if you make business decisions with your customers in mind, they will take note. While it can be easy to get caught up in short-term sales and quick wins, providing a great experience for customers and earning their trust will be much more lucrative in the long-term. If your goal is to provide as much value as possible to your customers and to genuinely be there for them, you will be rewarded with their loyalty and trust.

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