Do Your Customers View You as Trustworthy? by Debra Schmidt
Because I attend so many events, I have the good fortune of meeting and chatting with a wide variety of interesting people. Sometimes these conversations lead to friendships. Other times, they lead to frustration. The frustration occurs when I discover that someone hasn’t been honest about his or her intentions.
For example, I met a woman at a conference a couple of years ago. We chatted over lunch and learned we had a lot in common. We both had children late in life. We shared an enthusiasm for outdoor adventure sports and even our husbands had similar careers at that time. When the conference was drawing to a close, she tracked me down and suggested that we meet for lunch some time. I enthusiastically agreed because I had genuinely enjoyed getting to know her and thought it may be the start of new friendship.
True to her word, she called me a couple of weeks later and we scheduled lunch. When I arrived, we greeted each other like old friends and chatted for awhile. So you can imagine my surprise and dismay when she began asking questions about my financial status and retirement plans. You guessed it: She’s a financial planner. Suddenly she pulled out this black presentation folder that contained a financial planning guide and sales materials for a variety of investment products. As it turned out, the whole meeting had been a ploy to try to sell me financial services. Had I known, I never would have met with her. I already work with a fantastic financial planner and I wasn’t in the market for a new one.
Because I didn't wish to be rude, I graciously ended the lunch and told her I needed to get back to work. She placed the folder in my hands and told me she'd call me soon. She didn't even offer to pay for lunch. It took awhile for the shock to wear off, but when it did, it was replaced with anger. As I drove back to my office, my blood began to boil. I felt betrayed by her dishonesty. I was furious that my time had been wasted and I was angry with myself for being so gullible. The first thing I did when I got back to my office was to throw her presentation folder into the trash basket.
Honesty is a powerful sales strategy that is probably more important today than ever before. If you have integrity, you save your customer time. Time is more precious than money to most people. If your customers cannot trust your every intention, why on earth would they want to do business with you?
Whether you are in sales or customer service, a key question to ask is this: Do your customers view you as trustworthy?” Integrity is not only a question of good morals. Integrity is good business. Here are some guidelines for building trust with your customers:
Never lie to a customer about anything.
Misleading a customer or leaving out important information is the same as lying. Complete honesty is a must, even if that honesty leads to a customer's decision to stop doing business with you.
Do what you say you are going to do.
If you promise anything to a customer, deliver what you've promised. It may be as simple as the promise of a follow-up phone call. Your customers pay attention to the little details. If you're not honest about the small things, they won't trust you to be honest about major transactions.
Give credit where it’s due.
If a customer compliments you for great service but you know that it was really a co-worker or another department that got the job done, let the customer know.
Do not criticize your competitors or co-workers.
When a customer hears you bad-mouthing the competition or a co-worker, your credibility diminishes. Criticizing others is often viewed as a symptom of weak self-confidence. Your customers want assurance that you are confident about the quality of the products or services you offer.
Be honest about your limitations.
Expose your weaknesses right up front with your customers. If there are limitations to your product or service, let them know. For example, when I sell my sales training seminars, I don't guarantee that a company's sales will increase by 20%. Instead, I guarantee that I will teach the skills that can significantly increase sales if members of the sales team implement them correctly.
Give realistic timetables.
Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than not receiving a product when they expected it. Don’t promise a shipping date that cannot be met. Don’t promise that someone from another department will be right with them, and then the customer sits on hold for five minutes. Let your customer know exactly what to expect.
Customers want to do business with individuals and companies they can trust. Trust is earned. It cannot be built with one transaction, but it most certainly can be shattered in one transaction.