In business and in Life, Trust is Earned
Do your customers trust you? “Of course they do,” you might say. After all, why would someone be a customer unless they trusted the company they are doing business with? Well, there are many reasons.
A customer might not trust you but still do business with you because there are no alternatives. They may be enticed by a great price and are willing to risk it to save money. Perhaps they need a product today and the people they trust can’t get it to them until next week. Yes, there are many reasons a person might reasonably use a firm they don’t trust.
But they’re even more likely to use one they do trust instead. They’ll do this even if it costs a bit more, takes a bit more time, or is a bit more inconvenient. Trust is valuable.
Lately I’ve read several articles that separate the reasons people trust into basically two categories. While they called them different things, let’s call the first Competency-based trust and the other Empathy-based trust.
A customer who believes you know what you are doing is demonstrating Competency-based trust. If you’ve provided good service tothem in the past, they know someone who recommends you, or they just have a good feeling about you, they are more likely to believe the job will get done right, on time, and within budget.
Perfection is impossible, as is being perfectly trusted. It’s not a line you can cross over and “be there,” but rather a continuum. So to maintain Competency-based trust, you must know how to handle a situation when you blow it—how to make things right if at first they went wrong. That’s why I not only research how many complaints a firm might have had at the Better Business Bureau, but how they resolved them.
Soin order to gain and increase your current and potential customer’s Competency-based trust in you, stay current with those elements critical to high performance. Continuously work on yoursand your employee’s skills and knowledge of your craft, your policies and procedures, client surveys and inspections. This will keep your Competency level high.
The other measure of trust, Empathy-based, is a reflection of whether customers believe you and your business truly care about them andputtheir interests above your own. To determine this, the question is not, “Are you good at what you do?” Instead it’s, “Do you care about the people you’re working for?”
For those familiar with the T.V. show, House, Dr. Gregory House is the perfect example of someone with exceptional Competency but horrific Empathy. He is as good a diagnostician as James Bond is a spy and Sherlock Holmes is a detective. Yet he has few friends and doesn’t care if just about everyone around him (bosses, peers, patients) hates his guts.
While Dr. House is unlikely to earn Empathy-based trust until the series finale, you can gain this for your business. Sometimes you don’t have to demonstrate directly to the client to earn this trust. Potential customers might look at the care you show your employees, spouse, pets, or the environment to indicate how you would likely take care of them.
Both trust-types are important. Even your best friend may not hire you if you keep screwing up every time you do a job for him, and you may be the greatest technician on earth and lose customers because they think you’re a jerk. So the bottom line to getting and keeping more customers: Can you perform, and do you care? Neither you nor your business can afford to ignore Competency or Empathy without risking being ignored yourself.
This article was published under the title "Customers trust businesses that are competent, caring"
in the WichitaFalls Times Record News October 2011 Biz to Biz.
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