Despite being one of the hardest things to secure, trust can be easily abused. Countless businesses have had their bottom lines sunk because they abused their consumers’ confidence. Reputations damaged by these breaches take a long time to heal if left on their own. Businesses that want to rebuild the trust they initially had with their consumer base need to approach the issue proactively.
Rebuilding trust starts with admission and a promise to do better. Unfortunately, consumers are used to empty promises. Businesses need to follow their talk with action or else they risk pushing consumers further away. For consumers to want that trust to be regenerated, the company needs to prove it’s worth their time. To help, 11 members of Forbes Business Council suggest actionable ways a business can rebuild trust with its customer base.
1. Communicate Transparently
Focus on communication and transparency. Bad things can (and will) happen any time—the challenge for leaders is how to address those issues. Be kind, be honest and be committed to resolving the situation. This is something you cannot fake.
Be transparent while showing positive progress. This was done very well by Domino’s Pizza a while back. They were upfront that their pizza was not up to par but they’ve since made great changes that they believe their consumers will love. Now they are thriving.
Leaders who demonstrate vulnerability are often perceived as honorable and credible. There are few greater virtues than being regarded as someone who’s fair and does the right thing—not discretionarily, but always. Owning and acknowledging mistakes can feel uncomfortable for leaders used to presenting a polished, perfectionist front. Embracing this discomfort can reinstate trust and spur opportunity.
Embrace sincerity and care as guiding principles in all interactions you have with customers. Trust is fluid and dynamic, not fixed and static. Trust is the very fiber with which powerful relationships are woven.
The first step would be to respond on every channel every time. Many complaints are never answered within the social media space. Answer your digital phone so you can get ahead of major issues and make changes, as well as get a pulse on customers’ needs. In addition, make sure the actions of your company internally match what you are saying to your consumers, employees or the public.
The best way to clean up your act is to acknowledge what went wrong and explain why it happened. If someone was damaged in the process, offer them a way out and show that you have an exit plan. Make it loud and public, and double down on your PR efforts but only after you have a solid game plan on how to fix things.
There’s just one rule of rebuilding credibility: acknowledge, apologize and correct. Everything else is a dodge. Pricing discounts and explanations are gimmicks and only appeal to customers who never intended to be long-term customers. Be authentic, actively listen to your customers, understand the adverse impact you’ve created for them and take steps to ensure the disaster doesn’t reoccur.
Always start off by telling the truth, good or bad. Consumers are most forgiving when someone makes a mistake but they aren’t so forgiving when they realize you are trying to hide mistakes and deny there is a problem.
Leaders should focus on the alignment of the company’s actions with their core values and value proposition. Companies that authentically take full responsibility for their mistakes, work to understand their customers’ perspectives and then communicate the specific steps they’ve implemented to ensure a change in future outcomes can often build even stronger consumer relationships long term.
The main point is to never lose that trust by maintaining integrity on a daily basis. Anyone can make mistakes and these can easily be overcome. As long as you maintain integrity consumers will maintain their trust. Also, having a close bond with consumers and understanding their needs builds credibility between companies and consumers.