If you want to build trust in your business then starting with your communication is an easy but memorable way to achieve it. The easy comes about because there are some key steps to follow which I have outlined below and memorable happens because not enough businesses do a great job with communicating so you will stand out.
Here are the easy steps
- Always respond promptly to all communication even if it’s only to say that you need more time
- Be very clear in your communication and listen carefully
- Tell the truth quickly and never try to cover anything up
- Be concise and precise in your communication – give smaller amounts of information at a time and give the person time to understand
- Be considerate of the timing of your communication
- Make sure your communication is consistent across all the channels you use
- Share useful information with customers and potential customers to help them out
- Show empathy in a truly authentic way
- Make a great first impression in a way that matches the expectations of your customers
And now, let me give you some information about how these steps work.
Start by replying
Have you ever left a message for someone and waited and waited for them to get back to you? Whether it is by text, email or phone we have all had experiences of terrible communication but did it occur to you that you can turn these experiences into a way of making your business stand out and become seen as trustworthy?
Wow, I hear you say, can I really use this to build trust? Of course you can – you just need to start this process today.
The simplest way to begin is by ensuring that you return calls, texts and emails as promptly as you can. But what if I can’t answer them because I need more information you ask? While you work on getting the information let them know that’s what is happening. Give them an idea of how long it will take and thank them for their enquiry, question or opportunity to help them.
Your customers and potential customers are not mind-readers. They don’t know that you are desperately seeking answers for them – unless you tell them of course.
But what if you are really, really busy and literally don’t need more work right now? Well tell them that honestly so they can go and get help elsewhere (cause that’s what they will do when you don’t call them back). You may be surprised at how many will ask you when you could help them because they know that a busy and successful business is worth waiting for.
No-one ever complained about being dealt with honestly and openly by a business but plenty will bad-mouth a business that simply didn’t bother to get back to them at all. So make it a habit to reply as soon as you can.
Build trust with clarity
Having clear communication is essential. It is so easy to assume things, overcomplicate explanations or confuse people with jargon.
Start by listening as well as you possibly can and when they stop talking ask some more questions to learn even more. Have you ever tried to quickly solve a person’s problem only to discover that their problem is quite different from you assumed it was? That’s the result of not asking enough questions.
Listen and then check that you have heard and understood what they want by repeating it back to them. Simple stuff but simply stuffed up more often than we care to admit. And I know this because it’s a mistake I make unless I am very careful to keep myself in check.
Spending more time listening than talking will greatly increase your communication clarity at the same time as making your customers know that they are important to you. It will make it easier for them to trust you too.
Tell the truth
We would all like to tell people only what they want to hear but to build trust you need to focus on telling the truth – especially when it might not be what they want to hear.
Being factual in your communication is clearly important so why do we sometimes find it really hard to do?
Firstly it may be because you haven’t actually worked out what the truth is yet. If this is the case then sort yourself out and outline what you know and what you don’t know. Communicate what you know to be true and let them know that as soon as you get more facts you will get back to them.
Secondly, realise that bad truthful news is always going to work better in the long run than good untruthful cover-ups. We all forgive honest mistakes and real-life issues but no-one wants to forgive someone who makes out that everything is going to plan when it isn’t.
The more honest your communication is the more trustworthy people will find you and the more they will rely on you to give them the kind of customer service that they want.
The other trick to truthfulness is that you need to deliver it as quickly as you can. The faster you let people know exactly what is happening the better. When I was a property manager I sometimes had to let landlords know about tenants who were not behaving well. The sooner I let them know the more they trusted me because they knew I never covered anything up. Bad stuff happens but hiding it will always get you into deeper trouble.
Keep your communication concise
Be precise in your communication if you want to build trust. Being too wordy or offering too many different pieces of information at a time confuses your listener or reader and makes it seem that you don’t really know what you are talking about.
Write about an idea or talk about how something works, without confusing people, by focusing on one piece of information at a time and give them time to assimilate the facts before you move onto the next piece of information.
Maybe you can give them an example (like I did in the last topic) so they can understand what you mean before you move on. Or break your communication up into bite-sized pieces that allow them an opportunity to think in between ideas.
When you are speaking you can insert pauses which gives the listener a chance to sort out what they think about what you are telling them before you try to add more information.
If you offer your communication in a concise and even precise way you are allowing for everyone’s differences when it comes to absorbing information and you ensure that they don’t feel overwhelmed. This makes them feel more comfortable and this helps build trust.
Just because the time suits you to communicate with someone now doesn’t mean it will suit them. If you’re using text or email then this isn’t a problem because the person receiving it can decide when they are going to read it. But if you are calling someone then your first words after greeting each other needs to be around whether or not it is convenient for them to talk now.
When you show someone that you value their time and what they might currently be doing it really helps build trust because you are indicating how important they are. And, of course, our customers really are important to us.
Another way to show consideration is by making sure when they want to communicate with you that you ensure that this is a priority and that they know this.
Have you ever walked into a business and the first point of contact is talking on the phone and doesn’t even acknowledge that you are waiting? Isn’t it awful? It is so simple to just smile at someone, and maybe indicate how long you will be. We all understand that everyone is busy but being noticed and smiled at makes waiting easier.
Make sure that everyone on your team understands the importance of answering phones quickly, replying to texts and emails appropriately and how to connect with someone even when you are busy communicating with someone else.
Be consistent across all channels
Regardless of how you are communicating with potential and existing customers it is important that the message you are sending is clear and that you are consistent with this message all the time.
I think great examples of this are the Covid-19 announcements that we hear and see all the time. If it is a verbal message they use the same person using the same clear voice and message and if it is visual then the colours, timing and fonts used make it really stand out from other messages. And throughout the whole time they haven’t changed – but have stayed consistent.
If you can do the same thing then it will be noticed and your reliability will help to build trust with potential and existing customers.
Your tone, style and use of language need to be consistent across emails, texts, phone calls and all social media posts if you want to build trust with the people you are communicating with. Think about how you want to be perceived and make sure that you incorporate it into all your communication – including personal communication.
It is best not to come across as angry or discriminatory or as any other negative person regardless of the fact that you are communicating as you rather than your business. You see, you are your business and it is really important that you behave in a manner which is consistent with your business values.
So, no bad taste jokes or memes and when you are addressing issues it needs to be in as positive a way as possible. In fact many business owners choose to stick to commenting and posting personally only on issues that matter to them, their customers and their business. That way they bring the focus to what really matters to them and nothing else.
Share useful information
Whenever you can share ideas, information and tips which are really useful to your audience. You may write your own communication or you may share what others have written that you think will offer value to your audience. But don’t forget to credit the writer.
A business that offers help and advice or great ideas just to assist others is showing that they are more interested in supporting people rather than just making money from them. This will build trust in the business over time and let your target market know that you want to help them in many different ways.
Of course your information will need to be relevant to your audience and useful to them also. Every business has information like this sitting in the owner’s brain or the brains of the team and a brainstorming session will bring up loads of topics which can easily be shared.
About now some people question the wisdom of giving lots of information away for free but actually it is already available for free via the Internet so all you are doing is making it easier for someone to receive the information from you.
And that shows that you are useful, valuable even, and it is much easier to trust someone who has shown you their usefulness.
So, look for opportunities to share with others, to help them without looking for reward and to establish yourself as a trustworthy person and brand.
There is nothing more important to establishing a great relationship than showing that you understand what someone else is going through. Be it good times, difficult times or just annoying times having someone show empathy and to offer support or praise achievements is wonderful.
But how do you show empathy? By listening without interrupting, asking questions to more fully understand the issue or offering the right response depending on what is going on. Everyone is different so you need to focus on being authentic and doing what you feel is right for each individual you deal with.
Often it is non-verbal communication which best shows our empathy – our body language and facial expressions tell the other person so much about what we are thinking. But be aware that we are also giving it away with our non-verbal clues when we are not being empathetic.
If you genuinely care about your customers and show them that you want to help solve their problem then that empathy will assist you greatly to build trust in your business – as well as making you a great person to deal with. You will enjoy your days much more too.
Why first impressions matter
Sadly, we humans are wired to make really quick decisions when we meet a new person or business. In the past it was a useful skill because we faced many dangers and needed to quickly assess if someone or something was trying to kill us. We don’t live in that world anymore but still our brain makes these almost instant appraisals.
That’s why the first impression you make on a new contact is vitally important. They are going to make a decision about doing business with you or not in a really short time.
But what is the best first impression to make? Well that depends on your customers and their expectations of someone in your line of business. We don’t expect a mechanic to greet us in a suit and to carry a briefcase. We do expect a doctor to wear a white coat and probably expect to see a stethoscope. The person serving us our pizza can successfully use different language to the person wanting to help us with our accounts.
So you can decide what is the most appropriate impression to make. I think it always pays to start with a smile but then I am not a funeral director who might find that very inappropriate.
Whatever the first impression is you must be consistent with it – even if you have just got off the phone with an unreasonable customer or feel like you have a heavy cold coming on. You only have a short time to make a great impact on a potential new customer so you must always do your best to do it well every time.
It isn’t hard to build trust with communication and nothing here is difficult. You may also already be implementing some of these in your communication today. But when you choose to do them all you will be able to build trust with your customers more quickly and more effectively. Go on – give it a try – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
© Robyn Forryan 2020
The Biz Coach NZ
Making small business successful – one idea at a time.