The most valuable thing you’ll ever own is the trust of your clients, customers, and peers. You can’t buy it, and earning it isn’t always simple. It’s the sentiment that launched a thousand cliches, but they’re cliches for a reason: they’re true.
The value of trust can’t be overstated. It’s how you create beneficial relationships, and it is the backbone of every successful business career. You build trust in a number of ways, and while proving yourself will take time, once you’ve got your company to where you need it, you’ll see it was worth every second.
Garnering trust isn’t only a matter of being honest (you should be doing that anyway), but of living up to the standards that your clients and customers demand. Over the years, I’ve noticed three components of every trustworthy business I’ve dealt with, whether in a business-to-business fashion or as a customer myself. By incorporating these tenets into my own initiatives, I find that I keep my own business’ customers happy since they know that in dealing with us, they can be secure in what they’re buying into.
It may seem self-explanatory, but without the foundation of a quality product or service, those connections you’re hoping to make will avoid you like the plague. People trust your business because they trust your abilities and your strengths. Demonstrate those strengths by producing the best product available, and don’t cut corners. You’re only as good as your name, and your name is printed on everything you do.
Being detail-oriented and ultra-aware of the goings on in your company ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to creating value. Delegate when you need to, but getting everything right is ultimately your job as the leader. Steve Jobs at Apple is a great example of a successful leader who, while he had a great team beneath him, knew the biggest responsibilities were his and acted accordingly. While you don’t have to be as aggressive as he sometimes was, never forget that in order to capture minds you have to truly fulfil users’ needs. That means producing something great. You do that when your leadership can get everyone on board.
Once you’ve got that great product, your work can truly begin. The next step is to stay consistent. You must let your users or customers know that they can always expect great results when they buy into what you’re selling.
Consistency doesn’t mean hitting every ball out of the park. Deal with failure (and there will always be failures) by holding on to what you do best, even in tough times. Even when you take hits, a consistently great product or service is your jumping-off point for recovery. Consistency at its core is about meeting expectations, and if you can do that effectively, you’ve earned the trust of your customers.
Disastrous failure happens to those who miss expectations by making promises they can’t deliver on. The story of Theranos provides a great lesson (well, great for those who didn’t own stock) in the value of living up to your promises and being a consistent source of good.
A Vanity Fair expose in 2016 laid bare all the facts: in short, the company promised huge leaps in technology that it wasn’t sure it could deliver on. While they were able to accumulate trust in the short term with dazzling projections, once those promises turned out to be false it all came tumbling down. Expectations weren’t met, assured developments didn’t materialize, and fraud charges provided perhaps the best lesson in the importance of being trustworthy.
Surprises are great on your birthday but in business, they’re almost never welcome. Steady consistency, reliability and comfort are what you must bring to your clientele. Lofty promises create a hollow, short-term and ultimately weak trust that rarely becomes anything more than empty words. Be ambitious, yes, but make sure your promises can be met consistently.
Bringing transparency means being open about the decisions you make and why you’re making them. With more lines of communication on hand than ever before, running a trustworthy business means quality messaging, the type that builds trust through honesty and clarity.
If you’ve got a customer-facing brand, your social media engagement will be a key aspect of your transparency. Accessibility for those you serve, whether the public at large or your B2B clients is a must in the 21st century, and responsiveness is key. Being responsive without making excuses leaves your customers happy and puts your competition on notice. Failing to engage, whether in the office or online, has serious consequences for trustworthiness.
It’s probably not a coincidence that United Airlines, while a prominent brand, is facing down PR nightmares seemingly one after another as their social media-based customer assistance lags far behind their peers. From well-publicized dog trouble to the headline-dominating story of the passenger dragged from his flight last year, these big problems have only been compounded by a failure to effectively control the story openly and honestly. It provides the public with the picture of a cloistered company that fails to accommodate the needs (and occasionally the rights) of the people who rely on them for travel.
Transparency also means owning up. It’s often painful, and never easy, but in the long run, acknowledging (rather than ignoring), your mistakes gives those you deal with reason to trust your word in the future. For years, Domino’s Pizza received harsh criticism of their pizza and when shying away from it proved impossible, they faced it head-on. One huge self-deprecating ad campaign later, stock prices and customer satisfaction exceeded all expectations. It was a massive risk, but their transparency gave customers a reason to believe that the company was acting in good faith, and wallets opened accordingly.
The paths to trustworthiness in business are many, and every company blazes their own trail. While the route you take is your own, with value, consistency, and transparency, you can be assured that your customers will gladly follow you.
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