Establishing and maintaining customer trust isn’t as easy as it once was.
In decades past, a firm handshake and friendly, personal service was enough to earn the loyalty and confidence of most everyone. But in today’s digital marketplace, your prospects rarely have the opportunity to meet you and your team before they make a purchasing decision.
So your prospects must make purchasing decisions based on trust. Trust is also a critical component in customer loyalty and referrals. In fact, 82 percent of consumers require a sense of trust to remain loyal to a business. And 83 percent of consumers will refer a company they trust to their friends and family.
So how do you establish customer trust in today’s digital world?
Protect Prospect and Customer Privacy
Despite the proliferation of e-commerce and online purchasing, consumers continue to have major trust issues with this method of payment. And who can blame them, based on the increasing frequency of data breaches?
The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that 2016 was the worst year yet for data breaches. Major retailers, including Target, eBay, JP Morgan Chase and The Home Depot have all been the recent victims of cyberattacks designed to steal customer financial data.
The research illustrates how much prospects rely on trust and the perception of privacy and security to guide their purchasing decisions.
This means you must place your prospects’ and customers’ privacy at the top of your priority list, but they need to clearly see and believe your commitment to their data security. Limit how much information you require them to provide — especially sensitive data such as yearly income, Social Security numbers or credit card information.
And if you are involved in e-commerce transactions, you must aggressively incorporate security protection at every level of your website design and data management processes.
Use Testimonials to Build Customer Trust
Customer testimonials are a powerful tool for building customer trust — as long as you use them correctly.
Unfortunately, when you’re first starting out or if you haven’t previously asked your customers for testimonials, you may be a little short on material. Unhappy customers don’t hesitate to make their feelings known, but your satisfied clients may need a little prompting.
The easiest way is to ask your customers for testimonials — good or bad — and make it easy for them to provide their feedback. Be sure to time your requests well for the best results. If you let much time pass between a great customer experience and your request for a testimonial, you’ll lose that all-important enthusiasm and willingness to share details.
Be selective when choosing which of your clients’ testimonials to post, even if you don’t have too many. Great testimonials have the “4 Ss:” they are short, specific, signed and significant. Less effective ones have the “4 Ls:” they are lame, lazy, long and lacking a point.
This is not the kind of testimonial that will build customer trust:
“Joe’s a great guy. I really like him.”
Choose something more like this instead:
“Joe’s Plumbing Company responded promptly to my request for service, even though it was a Saturday. The technician was polite and professional. He was able to repair my faucet, saving me the cost and time of having to install a new one. Mrs. Paula Johnson, West Jordan, Utah”
Leverage Reviews — Good and Bad
Much like testimonials, reviews are a powerful way to build customer trust. But they can also backfire and harm your company’s reputation.
Google Reviews and Yelp are two of the most popular review sites, but you may have other industry-specific or local review sites that apply to your business. Reviews are highly effective for building customer trust, and they’re great for SEO purposes as well.
Getting your customers to leave you reviews is not as tough as you might think. Read our “Do’s and Don’ts” for requesting customer reviews for more insight.
Unfortunately, many questionable complaint sites have popped up in recent years. These sites prey on the negative energy of an unhappy customer, then hold your business hostage to remove the reviews. They don’t allow the consumer to remove or edit their review. Instead, they require you to pay fees before they will remove the negative reports.
What your customer may perceive as a way to protect the consumer is little more than a money-making enterprise that preys on — and extorts — business owners.
The best way to deal with bad reviews depends on the specific review site. For example, Yelp offers business owners the opportunity to respond to customer reviews. Customer service experts suggest that you respond publicly within 48 hours of a negative review. Be professional and calm at all costs, and address the reviewer’s concerns specifically.
If the problem was on your side, own it. Apologize and take whatever action necessary — within reason — to rectify the situation. Respond to the customer privately as well, if possible, and repeat your commitment to resolve the situation to their satisfaction. No one expects any business to be perfect all the time. What will set you apart is how you deal with those problems.
Most important, for those times that you receive a negative review from a legitimate customer, don’t simply dismiss it as an aberration. Seriously consider the customer’s perspective and use it to improve your service.
Improve the Customer Experience
If you can honestly consider negative feedback, you can leverage this potentially invaluable information to improve customer trust and loyalty.
Negative reviews shine a light on where your processes and practices need improvement. If you don’t provide a consistently exceptional customer experience, you can expect negative responses when you falter. Some companies spend big bucks to hire consultants to provide these insights, but customer reviews are free!
When you infuse your company’s culture with a true commitment to excellence, your customer service cannot help but improve. Demand exceptional service from every employee, and model this behavior yourself. Put formal policies in place for handling customer complaints. Train your team on the right way to diffuse a bad situation, and you will reduce the number of negative reviews you receive.
Building your business requires a dedicated commitment to excellence. This effort requires little more than your time and attention, but it will provide an exponential return on your investment. Testimonials and reviews are powerful tools for building customer trust and brand loyalty.
In your online marketing efforts, trust a digital expert to assist you in incorporating these and other strategies for improving your visibility to prospects and customers. Be Locally SEO provides a comprehensive suite of services designed to improve your online presence, including SEO, website design, content marketing and social media.
Contact us today to learn more about building customer trust and loyalty for your business. Ask us about our Accrue Reviews program that makes building a good reputation even easier!