Just a few decades ago, businesses built their relationships with customers in person. In today’s marketplace, where customer interactions take place online or over the phone, digital companies have changed how they build trust with their customers.
For online companies, it’s essential to establish credibility with customers from the very beginning. Just ask Peter Roesler, marketing expert and President of Web Marketing Pros.
"Building trust is necessary as consumers become more wary of cyber theft," he says. "Customer loyalty is essential for any business that plans to survive into the future."
Marjorie Adams, CEO of business consulting firm Fourlane, agrees. With consultants working across the country, she always strives to remain credible in the eyes of her company’s clients.
"Companies with great customer relationships are able to grow their businesses without gimmicks, fee cuts or special treatment," Marjorie explains. "Having a truly successful business is based on one simple concept: Trust."
To earn customer trust, Peter encourages business to display customer reviews prominently, whether on your company website and social media channels or by referring customers to popular review pages.
"Customer reviews are important for online consumers since they aren’t able to hold the product in their hand or test it before they buy it," he says.
According to a recent BrightLocal survey, 80% of consumers trust online review as much as personal recommendations. And 68% of potential customers only need to read between two and six reviews before they begin to trust a business.
"Business owners can use this to their advantage," he says. "Using the words of their satisfied customers can boost confidence in online shoppers."
Peter says that incorporating customer reviews into your marketing and promotional strategy can increase sales and establish credibility to your brand.
"Encouraging reviews lets current customers know that a business cares about their opinion. This builds loyalty, and often, these customers will become brand ambassadors to their friends, family and people they meet online."
For B2B clients, Marjorie’s strategy is to focus on company transparency.
"Customers and clients know when you’re being up front or when they are told a mistruth," she says. "They’ll appreciate and admire you more when you admit to a mistake, rather than playing games or even worse, avoiding the topic altogether."
To implement transparency effectively, Marjorie says to lead by example. That way, both your clients and peers will admire the company’s honesty.
“Don’t try to hide or cover up your errors. Address the issue directly, explain how you will handle it and share what steps are being taken to prevent the errors from occurring in the future.”
Marjorie says that a company must also be consistent in order for customers and clients to trust a business.
"Consistency goes hand in hand with providing great service," she says. "Internal expectations lead to external results."
In order to be consistent, Marjorie needed to change how her company interacted with their clients. Here are strategies she recommends implementing to increase consistency across teams:
- Your customer service team should provide equivalent levels of service
- Your sales team should answer questions in the same manner
- You should avoid drastic changes to your products or services, especially if it doesn’t match your brand, company values or customer expectations
- You should create meaningful measurements that measure your consistency and have a plan in place to make changes when something doesn’t work
"Consistent performance shows employees what you expect from them," Marjorie says. "For example, if you miss a meeting without a good reason, don’t be surprised if they do the same."
Peter reminds businesses that customers today aren’t afraid to walk away from a company if their expectations aren’t met.
"With so many options out there," he says, "consumers stay with a business that doesn’t make them feel valued or where they have lingering concerns about privacy and security."
Marjorie says to avoid this fate, always keep your consumer in mind.
"Creating customers and clients for life is more about them trusting you to deliver on your promises," she says. "It takes effort, but in the end your hard work will pay off again and again, with repeat business, more referrals, personal peace of mind and knowing you met and exceeded your customers’ expectations."