When running a business, your customers will be the single most integral part of its success – or, indeed, its failure. Your ability to develop relationships and cultivate loyalty with a steady flow of consumers can be the pillar on which your entire operations rest.
Therefore, it's essential to know how to build trust with customers. To help, we've compiled a comprehensive breakdown, including nine ways to ensure trust and loyalty among your target audience.
Firstly, Why Is Customer Trust Important?
As with personal relationships, trust takes time to build, and, as with people, it is hard to repair once broken. In business, however, a lack of belief has additional consequences; if customers lose their faith in your business, you can be sure they will be going to your competitor.
As a result, trust is vital. In order to instigate it, your customers need to be sure that what you are saying, doing, and offering is aligned and authentic. If you proclaim to offer the best product or service in your niche but deliver low-quality products, then you can be sure that not only will you lose those existing customers, but they will tell others to avoid you.
How to Build Customer Trust
There are several means through which you can build trust with your customers. You do not have to launch or work on them all at once, but once your brand is big enough, you can utilise these methods in order to boost your customers' trust and keep them coming back for more.
Enhance Your Security
In the digital business world, security is everything. People are far less likely to order from your website if you don't possess a security certificate, for instance, while customers also want to know that the payment process can be trusted. There are numerous certificates and security measures that you can display, such as PSP and McAfee assurances.
Customers who feel that security is not your top concern will hightail and run. After all, parting with financial details is one of the hardest things to do; would you willingly give your credit card details to someone you don't trust?
Own Your Mistakes
When you make a mistake as a business, the first thing you need to do is to acknowledge your error. If you think that your customers will simply let it slide, then chances are you will be hurting the trust and loyalty you have worked hard to achieve.
For example, US fast-food outlet Chipotle suffered an e-Coli outbreak in 2015 that resulted in over 50 people getting sick across 11 states – a significant blow to the popular chain.
However, the brand acknowledged its faults and launched a series of incentives to win back customers and acquire new ones, with the company's founder, Steve Ells, launching a public apology and implementing changes to the chain's food safety programme.
How Did Chipotle Win Back Customer Trust?
As you would expect, customers shied away from Chipotle following the e-Coli crisis in 2015, with the company's profits plunging by 81% in the quarter following the outbreak.
Yet despite this, Chipotle can be used as a case study of how a brand can rebuild trust with its customers and restore confidence. Beginning by acknowledging its errors and putting new safety measures in place, the company also offered:
- Millions of free entrée coupons
- New products
- Significant discounts (including free drinks for students)
- A summer loyalty programme
By implementing and maintaining these changes, the company has been able to attract new customers and bring back existing ones, reporting continued growth in the years since.
How you communicate with your customers is an essential factor in your trust-building arsenal, and, generally speaking, there are two levels of customer communication that you need to adhere to.
The first is talking to your customers. This means understanding their wants, needs, and problems and is especially important if your business relies on one-on-one interaction (such as in a consultancy service).
The second level is about being available; this can involve having several social media channels for customers to connect with you, as well as operating an active customer support service.
Wow with Customer Service
On that point, customer service is a highly effective way of positively interacting and engaging with customers. Helping people who have purchased your service or product helps to develop a more trusting relationship, especially if you can successfully solve any issues your customer is having.
Whether your customer service operations are based online or via telephone, having agents respond efficiently and professionally to their queries is a core hallmark of strong customer retention.
Every business needs a well-conceived marketing plan, and to better optimise your relationships, your marketing needs to be segmented.
Market research is a pivotal aspect of this process, as identifying who your target audience is (or should be) allows you to tailor how you deliver your message to them.
For instance, if your consumer base is urban 18-25-year-olds, then you might want to consider using social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat to reach them. Alternatively, if you are looking to market to baby boomers, then traditional offline techniques might be more effective.
The ways in which you reach out to your customers will define the kind of relationship that you build with them, which is essential for long-term trust.
Create Loyalty Programmes
Whether your enterprise is already established, or you are just starting, loyalty programmes are a hugely successful way to increase customer retention.
Although the structure of loyalty programmes tend to differ by industry, the bottom line is that you want to reward customers for using your products or services. The more they favour your brand, the more points they can accumulate and the more rewards they can receive, which is another way you can build customer trust.
Loyalty programmes are also a great way to attract new customers, as you can introduce discounts or bonus offers for those who are willing to sign up.
Personalise Your Product
One of the most significant emerging customer trends in today's market – especially among millennial and Gen Z consumers – is the need for personalisation; products or services that are tailored to the individual. Therefore, by going that extra mile and offering something unique, you can create a more engaging relationship.
Engage with Your Customers
Another critical aspect of the trust-building exercise is engagement. In the modern business world, this primarily means through social media channels, although, depending on your brand, you can also do so through e-mail marketing or even by being physically present in malls and outlets.
Remember that engagement is a two-way process, too. Asking customers what they think of a product, or allowing them to be decision-makers when it comes to changes, can increase engagement and prompt customers to hold a higher stake in your brand and its offerings. This, in turn, can boost customer retention, trust, and loyalty.
Many businesses flounder by making generous offers and promises but then under-deliver. Instead, to boost trust with your customers, try to over-deliver; there is even an easy way to do this without going to extreme lengths.
For instance, if people order products from your website, set an expected delivery date of five days – and then send them within three. By exceeding expectations, you have over-delivered, making your customers happy and, again, developing that fundamental level of trust.
Of course, the methods above are great ways to build trust, but they can't just be one-offs. Consistency is key to maintaining that loyalty that you have worked so hard to build.
If your customer service is fantastic for three months, but then it falters, then your brand will be hurt in the process. If you offer a loyalty programme that is not clear or easy to use, or that has very few benefits, then you are sure to drive away current and future customers.
This last point is absolutely vital. Consistency will help you build trust among your customers and keep them loyal to your brand, ensuring that any incentives or measures that you implement don't come across as a crude gimmick.
By being consistent in your security, your communications, the level of service you offer, your path towards building trust with your customers is sure to continue growing.
What other tips would you offer for building trust with customers? Let us know in the comment section below!