Same Approach, Different Title
A big component of creating brilliant customer experiences is getting the customer to collaborate and act upon your recommendations—to first buy, then to use, then to use more, then buy again. Whatever your title (account manager, customer success manager, sales executive, support account manager, on-boarding specialist, system engineer, technical account manager, and so on) or whatever your type of organization, your success in getting customers to do the right things depend upon how quickly and how deeply you can build customer trust.
Don’t leave the customer’s trust in you to chance. Embrace the seven interrelated trust-building behaviors, illustrated and discussed below, to compress the cycle time of trust.
(Source: Alexander Consulting)
A word of warning: At first blush, these seven behaviors may seem quite basic. Explore them deeper. You will find that these powerful practices are core tenets of not only a good business professional, but they are also the building blocks of being a good citizen of the planet.
Trust Builder 1: Projecting Transparency
We all know the importance of being open and honest. We appreciate people who come across as real and who act with integrity. Being open and honest is even more important as we are confronted with growing business and societal examples of non-transparency: salespeople saying things that are not exactly correct, politicians telling half-truths, company spokespeople denying wrongdoing by their organizations, and so on. People find it refreshing (and yes, trust building) when they know someone is being transparent, is not putting on airs, and is acting with integrity—especially when doing so is awkward or embarrassing or even painful.
- Brilliant Practice: Do what you know is right. Avoid the temptation to fudge the truth or hide reality—what would your grandma think if she found out?
- Brilliant Practice: Use tactful transparency. Transparency is based upon integrity. However, it is not an ethical requirement to tell the customer everything you know.
Trust Builder 2: Building Commonality
Building commonality is the sharing of business or personal interests, experiences, or views of the world. People attribute wonderful qualities (that may or may not be real) to those they have things in common with. The more things in common, the smarter, better looking, and more trustworthy the other person appears. There is no logical connection here, but that is how it works, nonetheless.
- Brilliant Practice: Proactively look, listen, and ask questions to discover legitimate things you have in common with the customer.
- Brilliant Practice: Integrate these commonalities into all customer communications.
Trust Builder 3: Showing Respect
Respect is evidenced by practicing common courtesy plus understanding and valuing the uniqueness of the customer, including different opinions and ideas.
- Brilliant Practice: Respect the customer’s time by being prepared, being punctual, and staying on schedule.
- Brilliant Practice: Respect the customer’s communication style. Some people like to look at the forest; others prefer to study the trees. It is a sign of respect when you learn and align with the customer’s communication style, even if it is not comfortable for you.
- Brilliant Practice: Respect decorum. You are a reflection of your company. Be neat and clean, polished and groomed. Dress appropriately.
- Brilliant Practice: Respect the background, experience, and culture of the customer. Use your customer acumen to talk in terms that they can understand and relate to.
- Brilliant Practice: Respect the uniqueness of the customer, including different opinions and ideas. In a time of growing global intolerance, it is refreshing when people value uniqueness and are open to concepts different from their own.
Trust Builder 4: Creating Likeability
Quite simply, creating likeability means being enjoyable to work with.
- Brilliant Practice: Just implement the other trust builders! When you are seen as being transparent, sharing commonalities, showing respect, being credible, and acting reliably, people like you more.
- Brilliant Practice: Display positive body language. Keep your head up, make eye contact, use open gestures with your hands and arms, and smile.
- Brilliant Practice: Use words that convey welcome, openness, and helpfulness.
- Brilliant Practice: Let the other person talk. The customer (like the majority of the global population) likes to talk. Let her do it, and you will be liked for not interrupting.
Trust Builder 5: Exhibiting Credibility
When you are able to demonstrate competence to your customer, you quickly build your credibility.
- Brilliant Practice: Convey the appropriate credentials of you and your team relevant to the customer. Ideally, let someone else do your bragging.
- Brilliant Practice: Demonstrate your experience with customer examples that your customer can relate to. The more experience you have with companies of similar type and size, and those within the same industry or marketplace, the more relevant you are to the customer.
- Brilliant Practice: Exude confidence in everything you say and do. Look people in the eye when you speak. Pause and think before speaking. Be serious but passionate, focused but relaxed, animated but controlled. Be positive, but don’t confuse confidence with enthusiasm—confidence is contagious; enthusiasm may not be.
Trust Builder 6: Demonstrating Reliability
Consistently doing what you say you will do—when you say you will do it and how you say you will do it—demonstrates your reliability. Being dependable is always valued, but how many people do you know that you can count on no matter what? The more the customer views what you do as important, and the more potential risk they perceive if things go wrong, the more vital reliability is toward building trust.
- Brilliant Practice: Think deeply before committing. As the Danish proverb states, eggs and oaths are easily broken. Before you give your word, be sure you won’t break it. Personally, I have found out the hard way that it takes me two to three times longer to do most things than I anticipate. How about you?
- Brilliant Practice: Only commit to what you can control. Even if the word “manager” is in your title, you don’t really control the actions of others, do you? We only manage ourselves. We are effective by our ability to influence.
- Brilliant Practice: Think small. Psychologically, fulfilling a small promise “counts” as much as fulfilling a big promise. Therefore, actively looking for small commitments to demonstrate your reliability is a good way to build the track record necessary to be seen as reliable.
Trust Builder 7: Maintaining Contact
Interacting with your customer on a regular basis allows you to build a trust-based, quality relationship. Absence may make the heart grow fonder in your personal life, but it doesn’t work that way in business! Assuming that your customer interactions were positive, the more contact you have with your customer, the more trust you will build. So make these interactions count.
- Brilliant Practice: Don’t leave maintaining contact to chance–schedule them. Schedule dates to contact all customers you want to build/maintain trust with. Actively look for value-adding things (business or personal) to contact the customer about. Once a day, once a week, once a month, or once a quarter, make sure you have made contact.
The Law of Intermingleability
As you have already realized, the really cool thing is that all of the trust builders link, build, mesh, and intermingle with one another. Your transparency shows respect and makes you more likeable. Demonstrating reliability positively impacts your credibility, and so on. The effect goes beyond being additive, to being synergetic. Consciously and ethically apply these seven behaviors with people important to your success and deepened trust will quickly follow.
James “Alex” Alexander has a doctorate in Human Resource Development, and after a dozen years in corporate life has spent more than two decades helping product companies build brilliant services businesses. Alex researches, publishes, advises, trains, and speaks on transforming good services organizations into high-performance services machines that create loyal customers, drive sales of services and products, and dominate the competition. He has written five research studies, four books, and over 150 articles, and has spoken, consulted, and trained in 25 countries.James Alexander