Are you building trust in your brand with every action?
Marketing expertise with insights for the mechanical contractor: this article was originally written by Doug MacMillan, president of The Letter M, and published in Mechanical Business magazine; it is posted with permission.
The Letter M is a Guelph-based marketing and branding agency focused on strengthening communities and businesses through high-quality strategy, brand, storytelling, design and communications.
Now, more than ever, building trust with customers is key for business success. There is an ever-expanding list of competitors for residential, municipal, multi-residential high-rise, commercial, institutional and industrial projects, all vying for customer attention and contracts. In a time of hyper-engagement through traditional and social media, in which customers critically examine what is presented to them, how do we convince them that we are worth their confidence?
The answer: show, don’t tell. Avoid dropping ads with headlines that say you’re “trusted since 1980” or “you can trust us!” You don’t need to ask anyone to trust you as long as you demonstrate why they should.
There is plenty of fascinating literature about the psychology of trust and how to build it. According to trust researcher Adam Waytz of the Kellogg School of Management, the four key components of trust are integrity, competence, predictability and benevolence. Other studies demonstrate that from a scientific point of view, the hormone oxytocin increases trust by suppressing the neural systems that regulate our fear of betrayal. In other words, gain trust and they let their guards down. Grounding our business actions by these themes can go a long way to building longer-term trust relationships.
Here are a few examples that lean into those four themes and can help you create a trust culture:
- Focus on your employees
This year, the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey of thousands of people across North America, showed that people trust their own employers more than the media, government, NGOs, or other businesses by a widening margin. They have confidence in what’s closest to them – things they can see, control, or feel empowered to change. Our employees can be our greatest spokespeople – or our worst PR nightmare, because once we lose their trust, it’s tough to gain it back.
How do you focus on your employees? Invest in them through training and professional development. Ensure that you have systems in place to promote a healthy work-life balance. Provide opportunities to receive and give feedback. Strive to keep them: reduced employee turnover shows your staff and your customers that your organization has stability. Say thank you once in a while.
- Promise what you can deliver, and deliver what you promise
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but in the desire to sound better than the competition, it can be easy to overpromise. You can’t “fake it until you make it”. Customers won’t be impressed if you don’t sound credible or can’t meet your own deadlines or service guarantees. Stay in your lane and focus on improving internal processes so that you can meet or even over-perform what you promised.
- Fix your mistakes properly
Mistakes will happen in any business. Owning it and taking responsibility can build a more solid trust foundation with a customer than if it hadn’t happened at all, because it demonstrates integrity. Deal with the error quickly, avoid laying blame, evaluate it carefully and circle back with the customer—not only to make sure they’re satisfied with the outcome, but also to communicate how you’ve changed your business to prevent the problem in the future.
- Engage in the broader community
Did you know that 86% of people expect business owners to take the lead on social issues with the same energy and enthusiasm that they put into turning a profit? In other words, people want companies to take a stance on public issues and important causes and commit to them. What are the values that drive your organization? How can you support the individuals and systems in your industry? For example, contractors and manufacturers may choose to work only with suppliers that are socially responsible, plumbers can commit to green energy targets and developers can support affordable housing initiatives.
It’s important to mention here that, while one-time financial donations are an aspect of corporate social responsibility, there is an increasing desire in customers to see organizations investing in systems of change. This may mean a long-term partnership with a non-profit, a change in your value chain and sourcing, or even a shift in organizational goals and mission.
- Communicate effectively
Let your customers and employees know what’s going on. They want to know that your organization prioritizes more than a large profit at the end of the year. Blogs and newsletters are great ways to share internal processes, training, community involvement, and more. Tell the stories of your people, your customers and your community. This humanization will help your customers see the faces behind your purpose, fostering trust and connection.
- Focus on retention
You should always be thinking about customer retention and follow-up. It makes good financial sense, as increasing retention rates by even five percent can increase profits anywhere between 25% to 95%. Not only that, the more loyal a customer is to you, the more likely they will trust your brand and recommend your business to their friends and family.
What do retention programs look like? It starts with great customer service. Beyond that, it can mean follow-up emails, referral/returning customer promotions, loyalty programs, newsletters, informative blogs and more. It’s important to offer something of value to the customer each time they return.