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One of the most common mistakes businesses make is to look at their customers from a transactional perspective: what do I have to give them, in order to get what I want?
This sets a tone that’s entirely too adversarial. Business isn’t a zero-sum game with winners on one side and losers on the other; in truth, success is more of a collaboration than anything else. At base, you should be trying to establish a relationship with your customers, and what’s the basis for a successful relationship? Trust.
Why is Trust Important to Gaining Customers?
Customers are smart. They know you have your own goals and objectives. Trust is about showing them they aren’t just a means to an end, and that your goals and values are aligned with theirs. It’s about taking that journey together.
For example, real estate is an industry that’s always had more than its share of handshake deals, wink-wink side promises, and hidebound traditions that weren’t always consumer-friendly. A good agent should be helping their clients buy and sell homes with integrity; it’s more than just about making money.
In other words, in 2019, being more trustworthy than the competition is just as important as providing more value.
Building Trust with Your Customers From the Beginning
Ideally, you want to start building trust with your customers right from that very first moment they hit your website. And there are a few qualities that can help you do that.
A great first step is to demonstrate relevance. How are your services relevant to the purpose of the customer’s visit? The messaging on our landing pages needs to clarify what you intend to do.
That leads to the second, and closely related, method of building trust: education. When it comes to demonstrating relevance, talk is cheap: the key to building meaningful trust lies in educating your customers exactly why and how you’re relevant to their needs. That’s where education comes in.
It’s hard to demonstrate your own value proposition before you educate the customer about the status quo. A little bit of simple, straightforward education goes a long way towards setting the preconditions for trust.
Our first two trust-building methods, relevance and education, lead naturally to the third: preference. If you properly demonstrate relevance, and educate the customer in a way that highlights the allure of your value proposition, they should clearly see why they should prefer you over the competition.
This speaks to one of the finer points of education. It’s not enough to give your customer leads a general overview of the industry. Your education efforts need to be framed in such a way as to show them, objectively and clearly, how your business serves their needs.
Tone is so important when you’re communicating with customers, whether it’s in that initial contact, through education, or in the middle or late stages of the customer journey.
Communicating in a manner that comes off as manipulative or one-sided is the fastest way to destroy customer trust. This is especially important to keep in mind during the education phase of your customer interaction. It’s enough to simply lay out the facts, straightforwardly and objectively, and let the customer draw their own conclusions. While you can guide them, it’s never a good idea to present an overly slanted view of things.
Sometimes that can even mean disclosures that feel uncomfortable or counterintuitive for you. But if you’re going to go into the downsides of the competition, one way to gain a big chunk of customer trust is to frankly and openly go into any downsides of your own services.
Other Effective Ways to Build Trust
Let’s touch on a few more general qualities that help you build trust with customers.
This one is a no-brainer, but it’s so important to mention it. Customers need to feel that they can trust you with their money and, in 2019, their data. There are many ways you can engender these feelings of safety, some obvious, and some more subtle.
One obvious way to signal safety is to build up the security of your website. Customers are reassured by SSL protections, and research has shown that trust seals and badges make a huge difference in customer trust.
But making customers feel safe can be done subtly, too. Invest in a professional, modern website that works smoothly. If your website is clunky, outdated, or buggy, it will naturally lead customers to wonder if you can be trusted to handle their money and data. Don’t leave any openings for questions.
At Clever we go out of our way to mention that are agents are pre-vetted, meaning they’re not just random real estate agents who’ve signed up with us. We screen for expertise, experience, and quality, so our customers can go into one of the biggest financial transactions of their lives feeling confident. Little reassurances like this can pay off big in customer trust.
Reviews and Testimonials
Customers love third-party reviews, and why wouldn’t they? It’s as close as they’re going to get to a truly objective opinion.
For that reason, it never hurts to publish testimonials from satisfied customers on your website. Make sure they’re detailed, and, when possible, include photos of the customers to give added authenticity.
The Rewards of a Trustworthy Relationship with Customers
The rewards of building trust with your customers are, to put it simply, massive.
Customer loyalty and customer retention are direct products of trust, and they’re also some of the biggest factors in profitability. After all, experts say that acquiring a new customer costs five times more than simply keeping an existing one, and businesses have started to bring customer retention budgets in line with customer acquisition budgets. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if retention became an even higher priority in the near future; according to a study from Harvard Business School, a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25% to 95% increase in profits.
The upshot is that trust isn’t just a meaningless buzzword or a warm and fuzzy afterthought: customer trust translates to real-world dollars. Top businesses around the world are starting to understand this, and you should too.