How to Build Trust in Your Company

Trust in Corporations is at an All-Time Low

Every day, there seems to be another announcement about a well-known company deceiving their customers and the public:

  • Volkswagen installed software into its diesel engines to detect when the engines were being tested by governmental agencies. That was done so the engines could pass emissions tests, but during regular use, its engines polluted the air.
  • For years, Takata made faulty airbags for automobiles. While airbags are supposed to protect drivers and passengers in cars at the time of accidents, many of Takata’s were defective; people in car accidents were being killed not by the accident but by flying shrapnel from the airbags.
  • United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger with a confirmed reservation from one of its flights for no valid reason. The passenger, a doctor, sustained serious injuries to his face when security personnel dragged him out of his seat and down the aisle.
  • 143 million Americans had their personal information stolen in a data breach at Equifax, one of the three major US credit reporting agencies. Equifax compounded the problem by trying to force victims to sign an agreement that protected Equifax from further liability, but offered minimal short-term protection to the victims.
  • Uber was attacked and ransomed by cybercriminals. Over fifty million accounts were exposed. Management kept it all under wraps for a year, looking out for themselves, but leaving their customers hanging out to dry.

These are just a few high-profile examples. Watch the news tonight and you’ll probably hear about a few more.

Prove Your Business is Worthy of Trust

Before you can build trust with customers and prospects, you need to start with your own employees. Do you have their best interests at heart? Are you concerned about their welfare? Do you care about the quality of your company’s products and services?Stephen R. Covey quote about trust. "Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships."

Here are a few steps you can take right now to build trust with employees:

  • Fairly compensate employees for all the work they do.
  • Never ask anyone to do anything illegal or unethical.
  • Whenever possible, protect employees and contractors from unsafe conditions, or exposure to hazardous materials.
  • Compensate and promote based on skills and work quality, not on personal relationships.

Don’t Just Talk About Customer Service, Deliver It!

Every employee who deals with a customer has to strive to serve them better.

Here are five practical ways to improve your customer service.

  1. Ask, then listen; don’t assume you know what customers want. If a customer complains about something, let them know you’re sorry it happened, and then do everything in your power to make sure it doesn’t happen again
  2. Be honest. In every interaction with a prospect, customer or the public, every representative of your company has to be totally honest.
  3. Under-promise and over-deliver. Too many businesses make promises they have no intention of keeping. Go the other way; deliver on promises you never made.
  4. Communicate regularly; keep customers and prospects up to date on the status of anything you’re working on. Follow up with them periodically after your product has been delivered or your service has been completed to see if everything is going as planned.
  5. Address customer concerns quickly and effectively. If anything is wrong, correct it. If a mistake happens, take responsibility and go out of your way to resolve it.

The Value of Word of Mouth Marketing

An image showing a boy helping another boy climb a hill.When people trust you, they will tell others about your company, your products and your services. In fact, many will be happy to give you testimonials. Post the testimonials on your website so others can see what your company and your employees stand for.

Prospects who need what you offer will seek you out primarily because of what they have heard about your company from past customers and others in the marketplace.

But building trust is not easy. It takes time and effort. It has to be built step by step.  By the same token, it can be quickly destroyed. One neglected customer, one late delivery, one promise not kept, and trust can disappear in an instant.



About Andrew Clarke

Andrew Clarke is President of Ground Floor Partners. Over the past twenty years he has advised hundreds of small businesses on strategy, marketing, real estate and finance. He is passionate about small business, social and environmental justice, and is a proud member of the American Sustainable Business Council, Food and Water Watch, Green America, Food Consultants Group, and the American Planning Association.

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