Build Trust for Stellar Customer Service


by Lea Brovedani
July 20, 2016

Do you believe that people trust you? Maybe…but chances are it’s not as much as you think. In climate surveys conducted using the Organizational Vital Signs (OVS) and surveys done through Edelman, 8 out of 10 managers believed they were trusted more than they were.

There is a cost to poor trust. Loss of trust costs billions of dollars in lost revenue. If you think that is an exaggeration then read what USA Today reported on the cost to Volkswagen!

Loss of trust costs billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Tweet: Loss of trust costs billions of dollars in lost revenue. @leabrov @ThinkHDI

Reputation and trust are two words that are often intermingled. There is a big difference though. Your reputation is a backward view of what has happened while trust is forward thinking.  One affects the other. Trust is based on positive expectations of what you or your company can deliver in the future.

If I decide to do business with you I’m going to check your reputation. What are people saying about you? What did you deliver? How quickly did you resolve problems? What were wait times? Now with a quick search, I can find out a lot about a person’s reputation in business by looking at reviews that were posted. Every type of organization, from eBay to hotel chains to pizza deliveries, is judged in real time, and those judgments affect buying decisions.

Imagine that you are working with a client who has paid a good sum of money to have you train their staff and use your software program. So far your sales have all been from referrals from satisfied customers. Now the new client wants to cut corners. Instead of four days of training, they want you to do it in two. The manager who agreed to participate in the training so they could champion and ensure that others followed the program is a no-show. How will this situation affect your reputation and future business? Trust and reputation go hand in hand, and you have to be able to see the big picture rather than the immediate paycheck. Do you take the job or decline?

I spoke with Tammy Isa of Orbit Group Partners, in Toronto, Canada. She believes her reputation is built around building competence and consistency in contact management centers. They do this by using their program that monitors and coaches front-line staff.  Isa knows that the results they achieve can only happen with the cooperation and the buy-in of the senior managers. Their reputation is often the result of the client properly utilizing their product. The price they charge is not about getting managers to put a check mark next to an employee’s name. It is about getting results. Isa believes that, in order to keep their reputation and trustworthiness, she has to be willing to have difficult conversations with clients and occasionally be willing to fire them or decline the business.

How do you become a high trust organization?  With a few simple changes you can be part of the top 20 percent and reap all of the benefits that a high trust manager and high trust organization enjoy. In my model of trust, I talk about the 5 Cs: caring, commitment, consistency, competence, and communication. The 5 Cs should govern how you handle relationships both inside and outside your organization. Using the 5 Cs as a guide, this is what a trust report card would encompass:

Caring

  • People are treated with respect.
  • Employees are treated as individuals and not as a commodity.
  • Mistakes are used as learning opportunities and not as weapons.
  • Management stands behind its employees and does not “throw people under the bus” when a mistake happens.
  • Personal preferences of clients and staff are known and are incentivized accordingly.

Commitment

  • Keeping your word no matter what. If you can’t, then ask to be released from the obligation.
  • A commitment is made to excellence. But first know what that means and be able to explain it to others.
  • Be committed to open and honest behavior.

Consistency

  • Words and deeds match.
  • The organization adheres to a code of conduct.
  • Everyone knows the rules.
  • The organization stands behind its product and services and provides consistent service.

Competence

  • Continual learning is encouraged.
  • Money is invested in quality education.
  • Risk taking is rewarded.
  • Show your employees how to resolve mistakes and never make excuses.

Communication

  • Have real conversations, not scripted, phony read-by-the-rule-book ones.
  • Communication is effective and transparent.
  • Letters, emails, and voicemails are direct and to the point.
  • The first line of communication with your staff in emotional conversations is face to face. If that is not possible because of distance, then video conferencing or phone. How your staff treats customers is a reflection of how they are treated.
  • Calls and letters are returned promptly.
  • Admit mistakes quickly and apologize.

Being in business is complicated and mistakes can happen at even the most trusted companies. What will keep you in business is being open and honest with your clients and making sure that all of your employees have a consistent message from the company. Clients may be upset and annoyed when a mistake happens, but apologizing and empathizing with them will help build and maintain the trust. Trying to hide or not keeping them informed is a recipe for disaster.

Your staff is only as good as your training and expectations of them. Lead by example, and reap the benefits that a high trust organization enjoys. 


Lea Brovedani’s journey to become an expert in trust and emotional intelligence took a circuitous route. After writing her practicum in Adult Education for a group of educators on how to teach with emotional intelligence, she decided to devote her career to help others put trust into action. Lea is the author of TRUSTED: Secret Lessons from an Inspired Leader and, for the past 15 years, has been working with clients across Asia and North America delivering programs that show leaders how to trust and be trusted. Follow Lea on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn. 


Tag(s): supportworld, service quality, relationship, employee satisfaction, customer service, customer experience, culture

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