Building trust with customers is vital. While most people agree that this is true, we don’t always do what it takes to build trust. Today, I have five new rules that are guaranteed to build trust. 

It is critical to remember that people won’t trust you just because you’ve turned up. You have to earn it and prove you are trustworthy.

1. Remember that trust is earned, not given. A friend of mine who is very knowledgeable about Customer Experience said this to me, and I thought, “Bloody Hell! He’s right!” As a rule, we don’t start off trusting people in general, especially businesses. We believe that companies are always trying to get something out of you, so we have our defenses up. When a door-to-door salesman you don’t know and haven’t done business with before comes to the house asking to trim the Palm trees, as happened recently at my Florida home, you think, “hmmm…what is he up to?” The only way to build trust with customers is to do things in a particular way, meaning a strategy with deliberate actions that build credibility and facilitate trust.

2. Be authentic.  While it is true that people are willing to buy from companies they don’t completely trust, that relationship only goes so far. When push comes to shove and the product or service in question is a crucial purchase, customers revert to buying from companies they trust. Genuineness is where you build trust. One way to show you are genuine is with contracts. Contracts imply that if the customer is unsatisfied with your work, they have recourse. You could even say it makes you vulnerable to the customer. It also has the added benefit of allowing both sides of the agreement to relax a bit and see what happens during the job, rather than micromanaging one another. Usually, contracts give people peace of mind to the point that often no one feels the need to enforce the contract.

Transparency3. Remain transparent.
  In some cases, being transparent means giving the bad news upfront. Hiding bad news will only delay the customers’ discovery of it, and that will only lead to feelings not conducive to trust. So, if you make a mistake, admit it and resolve it as quickly as possible. As Stephen Covey says in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you build up an emotional bank account with customers, and when you make a mistake with them, you make a withdrawal from it. However, if your emotional bank account is in good standing with customers, the error you made won’t ruin the relationship. Moreover, this same concept of transparency should be part of your employment relationship. Your employees should be able to trust the organization for whom they work. This relationship sets you up for them to provide the same for customers.

4. Do what you say you are going to do.
I realize this idea is simple to say; however, it is not always simple to do. For example, this past summer, I promised a client that we would have a proposal ready for them by the end of the week. However, a couple of my team members had an issue or two that delayed their contribution to the proposal, and we were going to be late. So, I told the client we would have it over by Sunday night so that the client would have it first thing Monday morning. It meant we had to work over the weekend to get it done in time, but we did it because that’s what we said we were going to do. These types of signals are essential to customers because it matters to them whether you keep your word. As a customer, I have been on the other side of this, too. Potential vendors have told me they were going to get in touch with their proposal by a specific time and then didn’t. Guess which vendors I cut from my list of considerations as a result? I figured if they couldn’t get back to me about the proposal, it would only worsen once we were working together. So, yes, this concept is simple to say, and it makes sense when you hear it, but it is also harder to do than it sounds. Nevertheless, doing what you say you are going to do is critical to building trust.

 5. Provide consistency. It is essential to build proper expectations and then deliver on them every time. Global brands get this concept. You know that when you stay in a Hilton somewhere in the world or go to McDonald’s in another country, there is a reasonable expectation of what you will get. I have talked before about Heuristics, which are shortcuts in our thinking that help us make decisions. Trust helps fuel these shortcuts. Consistent achievement of our expectations is essential. So, we look for signals that we can trust a brand to deliver. These signals also indicate whether we can trust the company for more important things later. For example, when choosing a specialist doctor to perform surgery, we often have NO idea if they are skilled surgeons. However, we know that the practice is organized, that they return our calls, listen to what we say, look at us in the eye when they talk to us, and other details like these. These little things do not shine any light on the surgeon’s ability, but they do indicate a level of trustworthiness that helps us move forward. In terms of managing a Customer Experience, it is important not to discount the importance of these small, maybe even objectively irrelevant things, because they’re all your customer has to focus on judging your trustworthiness.


So, saying all this isn’t tricky; doing it is. It is critical to remember that people won’t trust you just because you’ve turned up. You have to earn it and prove you are trustworthy. However, if you are authentic, transparent, do what you say you are going to do, and do this consistently, you can build trust with customers, and that leads to the type of relationship that benefits your bottom line.


To hear more about this idea in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here.

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX