Organizations with great customer relationships are able to grow their businesses without gimmicks, fee cuts or special treatment. You have to be good at what you do, of course, but having a truly successful business is based on one simple concept: trust.
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With trust, you’ll have customers (or clients) for life. Without trust, you may as well pack up and go home.
Building trust takes time and a lot of hard work. But it’s entirely doable if you and your team work on three of your most important core competencies: service, consistency and transparency.
Great Service Matters
According to a Concerto Marketing Group and Research Now survey, when customers trust a brand, 83 percent will recommend a trusted company to others and 82 percent will continue to use that brand frequently. While hardly anyone talks about the time you went above and beyond for a customer, you’ll certainly hear from the disgruntled ones if you failed to make a deadline or delivered a product that didn’t do what you had promised.
Earning a customer’s trust starts with giving great service. How would you want to be treated if you were a customer? The reality is that service should come naturally, instead of being strategically planned. The more you plan for great service, the less time you’ll spend delivering it.
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Sure, there will be times when you’ve tried your best and can’t seem to make any headway with a particular problem. But you want to strive for responsiveness, timeliness and exceeded expectations.
Consistency Breeds Harmony
Consistency goes hand in hand with providing great service. Internal expectations lead to external results.
From a business perspective, consistency applies to every aspect of what you do:
- Your employees should provide equivalent levels of service.
- Equipped with the tools they need, your sales team should answers questions the same way.
- You should stay the course with your products and services, rather than constantly shifting gears to try new tactics or initiatives.
- Create meaningful measurement to determine whether something is working. If it isn’t viable, you should have a plan in place to make changes.
Consistency puts your money where you mouth is within your organization. From a leadership perspective, consistent performance shows employees what you expect from them. For example, if you miss a meeting without a good reason, don’t be surprised if they do the same.
Transparency Is Clear
Transparency is another competency that should come naturally. Yet so many businesses have trouble coming to terms with what it really means.
Customers and clients are smart. They know when you’re being up front or when they are told a mistruth. If honesty is the best policy, they’ll appreciate and admire you more when you admit to a mistake, rather than playing games or even worse, avoiding the topic altogether.
Don’t try to hide or cover up your errors. Address the issue directly, explain how you will handle it and share what steps are being taken to prevent the errors from occurring in the future. To implement transparency effectively, lead by example. Your employees will also admire you more for your honesty.
Sealing the Deal
Maintaining solid business relationships does not mean your customers or clients have to like you. Everyone wants to be liked. But creating customers and clients for life is more about them trusting you to deliver on your promises. It takes effort, but in the end your hard work will pay off again and again, with repeat business, more referrals and personal peace of mind, knowing you met and exceeded your customers’ expectations.
Marjorie Adams is president/CEO of AQB, a business process & software consulting firm that improves the efficiency of client accounting departments. The firm specializes in QuickBooks integration and conversion projects. In her spare time, Marjorie catches up with one of her six sisters, sweats through CrossFit training, dresses up her four cats, reads a business book or watches the latest AMC show.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.