Relationships are the key to business success. If we think of a relationship as a house, then trust is the foundation; the sturdier the base, the stronger the structure.
Benefits of Trust
When your customers trust you, many benefits are bestowed upon you. They treat you with respect, share information with you that they might not have otherwise shared, act on your recommendations, ask for your advice, and in difficult scenarios give you the benefit of the doubt.
Treat You with Respect
When you are trusted, you are treated as you wish to be treated. You are not looked upon as a second-class citizen or as a lackey solely there to do the customer’s bidding. Rather, you are respected as an equal, a peer, a colleague. When you are treated with respect, much of the stress of initial contact and formal communication goes away. In effect, visiting your customer feels more like stopping by to see good friends instead of visiting your prospective in-laws for the first time. At this point in your relationship, you have both personal trust and professional trust.
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Customer: “Sammy, it’s great to see you! Tell me how that family vacation of yours went. I told my wife about it and now she wants to go there also.”
When you have trust, the customer is much more likely to share information with you that helps you help them.
Customer: “Here is the information you requested in full. Also, I thought you might like to see an internal analysis we conducted last quarter. It might give you some insights as to our thinking. Is there anything else you need?”
Act on Your Recommendations
When you are trusted, the customer is inclined to accept and act on your recommendations. The customer believes that you have his best interests at heart, and thus will hop to it. He will not wait for a second opinion, ask for more detail, or request additional analysis.
Customer: “OK, I’ve bought in to your recommendation. What do we need to get going?”
Reach for Your Advice
When you have trust, the customer will reach for your advice.
Customer: “What about your latest product that was mentioned in your newsletter? Is it as good as they say? Should I buy it?”
Give You the Benefit of the Doubt
This is a big one! Let me give you an example to demonstrate the importance of this benefit.
Imagine that you are the brand-new customer success manager at a very difficult but very important account. Things have not gone well during the past two months, and your introductory call isn’t going well either. It might sound something like this:
Customer (loud, agitated voice): “So you are our new CSM? Who did you tick off in your company to get us as an account? Do you know what a screwed-up outfit you work for? We have had three, yes, three major problems in just two months. Do you know how that makes me look to the big bosses? I am sick and tired of this. I am thinking of kicking you to the curb—I want the phone number of your president, and I want it now!”
Yikes, that is not a fun situation. Let’s fast-forward six months. You have been working long and hard with this difficult account. Coordinating the work, getting stuff done right, letting them know you care, and giving them regular updates (both good and bad). It has not been easy, but you have earned the customer’s trust, little by little, day after day. They renewed their contract and requested keeping you as their CSM. Now you get an unexpected phone call from this customer:
Customer (loud, agitated voice): “You guys did it again! That problem we thought we fixed just came back. What is wrong with you guys? I have half a notion…(silence, then a sigh)…oh, jeez, sorry Sammy. I let off some steam. What do we do next?”
This is the same customer, with maybe a worse situation, but what a world of difference in how you were treated. Escalation was averted, hassles were minimized, probably a saved account—all because of the personal trust you had built. Your past performance earned you the benefit of the doubt…and that is huge!
Trust is a must.
Note: This article was adapted from The Brilliant Service Professional: Building Trust, Creating Value, Having Fun, by James “Alex” Alexander.