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In today’s hypercompetitive environment, establishing and keeping the trust of your customers can be a tall order.

Even a slight change to the experience, service, quality of merchandise or type of product you deliver can have an impact on customers and they’ll be quick to let you know their reactions, especially the negative ones.

Earning Your Customers’ Trust

At the risk of stating the obvious, the best way for brands to build trust is by offering quality products or services that deliver as advertised and by providing customers with a positive, consistent experience with your brand, whether they are visiting your website online, via mobile or coming to your physical store.

From the time they enter your online or bricks-and-mortar store through checkout and beyond — at every point along their journey and on every channel — you want to earn that trust from your customers.

Their satisfaction is your priority and you want to demonstrate that with a commitment to providing them with top-notch customer service every time. 

5 Building Blocks of Customer Trust

But what, specifically, are the components of customer trust? Here are five core building blocks that can make all the difference between giving your customers an experience that fosters and enhances their trust and one that falls unnecessarily short.

Humanize the e-commerce experience by providing guided assistance.

Connecting with brands online can be an impersonal experience but when you help a customer, you establish a connection with them. One way to foster that direct connection is by offering customers expert guided assistance, whether through live chat, email or an online knowledgebase.

For example, when you notice a customer is spending more than a few seconds on a page, offer her a live chat option with a friendly greeting. The point is to make a proactive personal connection when customers are online and need help — or be on stand-by when they don’t — just like in a physical store. People like knowing they can get help or have their questions answered quickly, and that there are real people behind your brand, even if the relationship is online.

Don’t bounce customers from channel to channel.

Customers want their questions answered or problem solved quickly and a major customer pet peeve is being transferred, sometimes multiple times, in search of the information they need.

What’s more, customers don’t want to contact you via one channel and be transferred or switched to another. Keep them in the mode they are in, for example, messaging, to answer questions. If you respond to customers using the communication channels they selected to approach you, they are much more likely to have a positive experience.

Own your customer service mistakes.

If customers’ packages get lost, or those HDTVs they just purchased on a one day blockbuster sale are now on backorder, you need to notify them right away. Customers trust you more when you admit to errors and handle them promptly. But don’t simply apologize: Make it right and make up for your or a third party’s error by offering a special coupon or discount to be used for a future purchase.

State your policies consistently and clearly across all channels.

Your company’s policies for returns, shipping, etc. should be the same whether a customer is buying in your physical store or buying online. And make sure your sales and customer service staff know exactly what those policies are.

There are few things more frustrating to a customer than having the idea that they have 90 days to return something for a full refund — because that’s what it says on the company’s website — only to have someone in customer service tell them their return is only eligible for store credit. Remember: Nothing turns off your customers — and erodes their trust — faster than making them feel like they’re being treated unfairly.

Let customers know you respect their privacy and their information is secure.

When a customer signs up to be on your email list or to get your newsletter, they need to know what strings come attached. If you plan on sharing their information with third parties, you need to let your customers know and allow them to opt out. And if you collect personal information or want to know your customers’ locations to provide them with a more personalized online experience, tell them that —and be sure to ask their permission.

Finally, while you may know that your customers’ credit card information is secure, it’s important to let your customers know by posting security certificates on the checkout page and on in-store payments processing machines. And if you do experience a security breach, notify customers right away, and spell out what measures you’ll be taking to better protect their data in the future.

In short, no matter what the size of your business, building trust with your customers is essential if you want them to continue being your customers.

And there are no better ways to build that trust than by providing proactive customer service through the channels of their choice, being transparent about your policies, answering questions promptly and owning up to errors and quickly rectifying them.

Title image "Golden Hour" (CC BY 2.0) by Brian Lauer