“Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for an organization to work” – Warren Bennis

Every positive, mutually beneficial relationship is built on trust, and it is not a result of happenstance. Trust takes time, commitment, and
continuous nurturing to develop and grow, yet it is very fragile. Once broken, it may never be fully restored. Ever wondered why reputable brands like Toyota recall cars because of a ‘minor’ factory error? They simply want to build or sustain trust and customers’ confidence, which will translate to customer loyalty. 

In the business world today, where a very large volume of trade and transactions are carried out over the phone or internet, the need to gain customers’ trust has even become more evident than ever before. Simply put, the profitability and overall success of your product, value proposition, or business as a whole depend on the trust and confidence existing and potential customers have in your organization.

Sadly, many Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and some large corporations still wittingly or inadvertently do those things that are capable of eroding customers and potential clients’ confidence in them. I’m sure many people can relate to that awkward moment when you are looking forward to a great event, in that gorgeous custom-made attire, only to be disappointed by your dressmaker.

Is it the mechanic or laundry guy that you want us to talk about? I was trying to book a flight online a few weeks ago and I encountered a problem while trying to complete the process. I immediately called a colleague to assist with the booking. Unfortunately, she experienced the same difficulty. I quickly went to the airline’s site, searched for customer care lines, and called two numbers. The first number was switched off. The second number rang out several times without anyone picking and to date, no one has returned my calls. Still trying hard to meet my travel schedule, I dashed to the airport where I met the staff of the same airline and the experience was equally bad. Luckily for me, their competition’s agent was willing to help. You can imagine what happened next.

The question is, can you and your company be trusted to deliver the promised quality and/or quantity within an agreed time frame? Below are some tips that will help your business gain customers’ trust and ultimately grow in leaps and bounds.   

·        Under-promise, but strive to over-deliver: Most startups in the MSME space in a bid to winning customers often over-promise and end up not meeting customers’ expectations in terms of quality and/or delivery time. Once this is the case, they end up losing more customers than they hoped to get.

Therefore, if it will take 18 hours to complete a project, for instance, it is advisable to tell the customer 24 hours. However, strive to deliver not just within 18 hours or less but also deliver quality jobs.

If you do this consistently, your profitability will soar because you will not only retain your existing customers but also attract new ones in a cost-effective way, as your satisfied customers will happily do the advertisement and marketing for you free of charge. 

·        Be brutally honest: “Honesty is the soul of business” – Dutch Proverb. Do not cut corners when undertaking clients’ projects. If you tell a customer a machine part is due for a change, ensure you get what the customer paid for and change the old part. When you are getting materials for a customer’s job, ensure to get the right materials because in the end “being honest never hurts anyone. Being a liar hurts only you.” I will tell you a story.

Once my car developed a fault and I took it to the service shop where I normally perform routine service for my car. They brought out an invoice of about N135,000. As I was complaining about the amount, a neighbor recommended
a man she would refer to as an expert and an honest man. After meeting the man, I spent only N33,000 and the car came back perfectly. After that, I became his client and I have also recommended some of my colleagues to him.

·        Seek and create an atmosphere of genuine feedback: Give room for staff and customer feedback. If the feedback is not what you expect to hear, work on the root cause of such negative feedback and if possible carry the customer along as you work towards addressing the concern(s) raised. If the feedback is positive, put measures in place to sustain and improve on it. 

·        Always communicate: Always engage your customers. If things will not work out as planned let your customers know beforehand, and let them hear it from you without asking. If you won’t be able to meet their expectations at a particular time let them know why and what you are putting in place to mitigate the effect on them. Are you about to take a major decision that would affect your customers? Tell them beforehand. It will only make them trust you more. 

·        Proffer solution instead of just trying to sell a product: Understand your customer or prospect’s need(s), then offer a product or service that meets the specific need(s) instead of forcing any product or service down their throat. So, as a salesperson, do not try to see ice to a man under the rain when his immediate need is an umbrella. People hardly forget those who help them through a difficult situation. You can either choose to make a sale or build a relationship that will lead to many sales over a long time. The choice is yours. 

·        Always keep your words: “in order to establish trust, it is first important that you are trustworthy. This means you should be forthright with all your dealings” – Paul Melendez. Until recently, despite being a legal requirement, many road users do not buy vehicle insurance policies because most insurance companies hardly pay insurance claims promptly. For you to gain your customers’ confidence and loyalty, you must consciously build trust by honoring your words at all times. 

In addition to the points above, for you to gain customers trust, you must:

·        be empathetic,

·        know your limits

·        be socially responsible.

Remember, trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.