Show You CARE
Originally published: 10.01.16 by Jim Baston
Four Components to Communicate Trust with Your Customers
“All things being equal, people like to do business with people they like." Not only does this old axiom hold true, it turns out when things are not equal, people still like to do business with people they like.
The core ingredient for a good relationship is trust. Without trust, it’s possible to have a relationship, but it will not be good. The level of trust in a business relationship therefore, is a major determinant of whether a customer will choose to continue to do business with you.
So, how do you earn the trust of your customers? The obvious answer is to be trustworthy. A few con artists aside, it’s difficult to pretend you’re trustworthy when you’re not. For most organizations, if they’re not trustworthy, it somehow has a way of catching up with them.
Trust, at least in the service business, is certainly not a case of “fake it ‘til you make it.”
Simply being trustworthy is not enough. Somehow, you have to communicate you’re trustworthy so you can earn the trust of your customers. You can do this through your actions and your deeds — and these must be consistent across the breadth of your organization.
Every customer contact, whether it is a telephone conversation, email or personal visit, must communicate the same message — that you’re trustworthy.
As managers, you can control the message and ensure it’s consistent regardless of who interacts with the customer or how they do it. You can provide training and guidelines to ensure every customer interaction communicates your trustworthiness and correspondingly reassures the customer.
Here is an acronym called CARE representing the four major trust builders. If you can ensure every interaction communicates one or more of these, then you’ll earn the trust of your customers.
C — Competence
A — Accountability
R — Reliability
E — Empathy
By helping your customer-facing personnel communicate CARE through their everyday interactions with your customers, you can earn your customers’ trust and their business.
A major component of trust is the level of confidence your customers have in your competence. Competence tells the customer they’re in good hands and they’re being well served. It creates assurance they’ve made the right decision in choosing to do business with you.
The challenge you face when you deliver an intangible service is the customer usually cannot directly measure the quality of the service or the competence of the person delivering it.
How do they know if the part really needed to be replaced? How do your customers know the hour it took to troubleshoot the problem is remarkably short or unnecessarily long? How do they know the dispatcher ably dispatched the most competent person to address their concern? The answer to all questions is that they really don’t know.
Since they’re not able to actually see the quality of the work or the competence of the person doing it, your customers look at those things they can see and use them as a lens through which they judge the quality of the service itself.
For example, are your technicians dressed in an appropriate manner for the job at hand and are they clean and well groomed? Do your employees interact with them professionally? Does the written work order or the invoice communicate the value of the work performed? Does the technician’s body language and mannerisms communicate confidence? Did the dispatcher’s voice tone and language communicate their competence and create assurance?
Everyone wants to deal with a company that stands behind its word. We all would like to know the service firm we’re working with not only does great work, but also is there when mistakes happen and are willing to make it right. If you think about how you’d like to communicate this to your customers, then you can provide your teams with guidance on how to handle situations when things don’t go just right.
One of the things you can do is empower your front line employees to make decisions to address customer concerns. Within certain guidelines, they can immediately make things right and you reap the benefit of a more loyal customer base.
Reliability is a significant trust builder. Here is another area where you can provide guidelines and expectations for your front line personnel so they communicate reliability through their interactions.
For example, you can teach your employees to follow through on their commitments — that is, do what they say they will do, when they say they will do it. But even with the best of intentions, the most “reliable” of your team may be perceived as unreliable if the customer’s expectations of what was promised differ from those of your team member.
Not only do your front line personnel need to follow through on their commitments, they must also ensure both they and the customer agree on what those commitments are. Another simple, yet critical, example of communicating reliability is responding on time and calling if there is any cause for delay.
Empathy can be defined as, “the capacity to understand or feel what another [person] is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference.” Your customers want to know you care about them and the equipment you’re servicing.
If you recognize how your technicians communicate this, then you can provide guidelines and training to ensure they communicate their empathy consistently.
What can they do to communicate empathy when they arrive on site? How does their greeting demonstrate empathy? What questions could they ask to show concern for the equipment when they arrive to perform routine maintenance? How can they communicate empathy in the way they complete their tasks? Do they keep the work area clean and safe?
Do they advise your customers of any possible inconvenience that may be caused by their work and suggest ways to minimize any disruption? Are there questions that could be asked before leaving the site to communicate empathy? Are there steps that the technician can take to reassure the customer the work has been properly addressed?
You earn the trust of your customers by being trustworthy and communicating this through your everyday customer interactions. As managers, you can work with your teams to help them understand the importance of these factors and provide guidelines to ensure they do indeed communicate them. That way you can show you care by showing you CARE.