16 Ways to Build Trust with Customers and Prospects

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Dec, 03, 2014 @ 12:12 PM

trust resized 600








Thanks to the Edelman Trust Barometer who has been performing this study for the past 14 years. This year's research includes 33,000 respondents from 27 countries.


The findings are the fundamentals we all need to follow to build trust with customers and prospects:


  1. Listen to customer needs and feedback and have a closed loop process to address them. I suggest using a three-question Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey to begin the dialogue.

  2. Treat your employees well. Your employees will only treat your customers as well as you treat your employees.

  3. Place customers ahead of profits. Do what's right for the customer and everything else will take care of itself. Do what's wrong by the customer and you'll be called out on social media and will fail faster.

  4. Communicate with integrity and honesty. Be open and transparent. Again, if you're not, you'll be called out on social media and your business will be toast.

  5. Have ethical business practices. Do unto others . . .

  6. Take responsible action to address issues or concerns in a timely manner. If you can't resolve the issue by the end of the day, let the customer know the status of the resolution and when they can expect their issue to be resolved.

  7. Have transparent and open business practices. Perhaps cell phone and cable companies would have higher NPS scores if they had this philosophy?

  8. Offer high quality products and services. Give people products and service of value. Ask customers if they feel like they're receiving good value from your products or services.

  9. Be innovative. Offer new products, services or ideas. Anything you can do to make life easier and simpler for customers will be rewarded with more business and mentions in social media.

  10. Work to protect and improve the environment. It's telling that all of the BP stations in my area of North Carolina are being rebranded.

  11. Address society's needs in every day business. This goes back to having a vision and mission that's more than about just making money.

  12. Create programs that positively impact the local community. Give back to the community that supports your business and livelihood.

  13. Partner with NGO's, government and third parties to address society needs. We're beginning to see more public-private partnerships to address the country's crumbling infrastructure.

  14. Have highly-regarded and widely-admired top leadership. Your leaders are your brand outside your company. Are they on brand? Are they active on social media and within the industry expressing their point-of- view? Leaders don't hide, they're out front engaging customers as well as critics.

  15. Rank high on a global list of companies. Decide what you want to be known for and be the best you can be at it.

  16. Deliver consistent financial returns to investors. Companies that build trust with customers and have high NPS scores tend to perform better financially than those who don't. It's simply good business to do what's right by your customers and prospects.

To me, these 16 ways to build trust boils down to my personal mantra: "Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it?"


Which of the 16 things is your company doing well?


Where can you improve?


If you don't know, ask your customers. 

Tags: transparency, trust, be responsive, integrity, customer centric, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

Engaged Customers are Loyal, Profitable and Generate More Revenue

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Aug, 19, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

engaged customers










Gallup Research has a proven customer engagement instrument that comprises actionable question items with proven links to customer behavior.


Measuring Customer Engagement



Based on their responses to these items, Gallup categorizes customers into three distinct groups: fully engaged, indifferent, and actively disengaged.


The Three Types of Customers

FULLY ENGAGED customers are emotionally attached and rationally loyal. They'll go out of their way to locate a favored product or service, and they won't accept substitutes. True brand ambassadors, they are a company's most valuable and profitable customers.

INDIFFERENT customers are emotionally and rationally neutral. They have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward a company's product or service.

ACTIVELY DISENGAGED customers are emotionally detached from a company and its products or services. They will readily switch brands. If switching is difficult or impossible, they may become virulently antagonistic toward the company. Either way, they are always eager to tell others exactly how they feel.


Linking customer engagement to crucial business outcomes


Gallup's analysis has found that fully engaged customers are more loyal and profitable than average customers in good economic times and in bad.


Across a variety of industries and target audiences, including business-to-consumer and business-to-business, Gallup's research has consistently shown a powerful link between customer engagement and key business outcomes.


Data reveals that a customer who is fully engaged represents an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer.


In stark contrast, an actively disengaged customer represents a 13% discount in those same measures.


In short, when customers believe they are getting more out of a business, they give more to it. For example, Gallup research has found that:

  • In the retail banking industry, customers who are fully engaged bring 37% more annual revenue to their primary bank than do customers who are actively disengaged. Fully engaged banking customers also have more products with their bank, from checking and savings accounts to mortgages and auto loans. Plus, they have higher deposit balances in their accounts than less engaged customers with the same products do.
  • In the consumer electronics industry, fully engaged shoppers make 44% more visits per year to their preferred retailer than do actively disengaged shoppers. And when they do visit their preferred electronics retailer, these fully engaged shoppers purchase more items than they originally intended to. On average, they spend $373 per shopping trip, while actively disengaged customers spend $289 per trip.

Gallup found similar results in other industries, including the restaurant, hospitality, and insurance industries:

  • Restaurant -- casual dining: Fully engaged customers make 56% more visits per month than actively disengaged customers do.
  • Restaurant -- fast food: Fully engaged customers make 28% more visits per month than actively disengaged customers do.
  • Hospitality: Fully engaged hotel guests spend 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests spend.
  • Insurance: Fully engaged policy owners purchase 22% more types of insurance products than actively disengaged policy owners do.


When businesses can provide the meaningful experience their customers want, they realize greater rewards in terms of loyalty and profits.


Though it can be difficult for businesses to connect with their customers on an emotional level, it can be done be listening and establishing a trusting relationship that's mutually-beneficial for the customer and the business.


What actions are you taking to enhance customer engagement?


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Tags: earn your customers trust, customer engagement, emotional connection, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

Make Mistakes Early and Often . . .

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Mar, 21, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

make mistakes early and often




Thanks to the Daily OM for the following which so eloquently reinforces my advice, "make mistakes early and often, just don't make the same mistake twice."


Life becomes much more interesting once we let go of our quest for perfection and aspire for imperfection instead.


It is good to remember that one of our goals in life is to not be perfect.


We often lose track of this aspiration.


When we make mistakes, we think that we are failing or not measuring up.


But if life is about experimenting, experiencing, and learning, then to be imperfect is a prerequisite.


Life becomes much more interesting once we let go of our quest for perfection and aspire for imperfection instead.


This doesn’t mean that we don’t strive to be our best. We simply accept that there is no such thing as perfection—especially in life.


All living things are in a ceaseless state of movement.


Even as you read this, your hair is growing, your cells are dying and being reborn, and your blood is moving through your veins. Your life changes more than it stays the same.


Perfection may happen in a moment, but it will not last because it is an impermanent state.


Trying to hold on to perfection or forcing it to happen causes frustration and unhappiness.


In spite of this, many of us are in the habit of trying to be perfect.


One way to nudge ourselves out of this tendency is to look at our lives and notice that no one is judging us to see whether or not we are perfect.


Sometimes, perfectionism is a holdover from our childhood—an ideal we inherited from a demanding parent.


We are adults now, and we can choose to let go of the need to perform for someone else’s approval.


Similarly, we can choose to experience the universe as a loving place where we are free to be imperfect.


Once we realize this, we can begin to take ourselves less seriously and have more fun. Imperfection is inherent to being human.


By embracing your imperfections, you embrace yourself.


What's your philosophy of learning and gaining experience?

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Tags: transparency, be reliable, be responsive, be real, be relevant, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

Be real. Be reliable. Be responsive. Or, be gone.

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Mar, 07, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

Be real. Be reliable. Be responsive.








I enjoyed reading Bruce Kasanoff's (@brucekasanoff) ebook "How To Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk."


When I first saw the title, I was afraid that I might be "that jerk" since I've been trying to build my personal brand with blog posts and sharing what I consider to be "information of value" with my personal network as I strive to find my next full-time engagement or clients who have problems that I can help them solve.


Bruce shares 48 different points, all good, but some resonated more with me than others.


I'll share my "Top 10" along with my thoughts:


  1. Think how you can help every person you come into contact with. This is great advice regardless of where you are in your life and what you do for a living. I've found this to be tremendously beneficial while searching for work and clients.

  2. Introduce others -- think about how people you meet can benefit from the people you know. Introduce good people to other good people. When people connect, good things happen (this may have been a tagline?).

  3. Give away good ideas. This is the basis of content marketing. Doing so builds awareness, credbility, trust, more contacts and more people interested in what you have to say.

  4. Start small. I've certainly done that from my LinkedIn network to learning social media channels. I'm very comfortable with LinkedIn. I'm learning Twitter. I'm not sure I see the value of Facebook -- for me.

  5. Be trustworthy. My personal mantra is, "Do what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it." Not many people, especially in marketing, are able to live up to this.

  6. Be there in tough times. You remember the people who stand by your side when you need them most. Be someone friends, family and colleagues can trust to be there when you need them.

  7. Minimize the trivial. Be relevant. Only tell people what they need to know, and you need to communicate, to accomplish you goal. Everyone is busy. Get to the point. And please, don't "cc all." 

  8. Use a lot more pictures. I need to work on this. I'm not proficient designing things online; however, future presentations and speaking engagements will be loaded with pictures.

  9. Travel in new circles. Meet interesting people. Expose yourself to new ideas. Let random events push you in fresh directions. Get out of your comfort zone.

  10. Really listen. I call this "listening intensely." It involves being present and interested in what people are saying. I have been very successful using this technique in one-on-one interviews with respondents, be it customers, prospects, channel partners or management team members, to obtain insights that can make a dramatic positive impact on the business.

As I said, all of Bruce's ideas are thought-provoking and I urge you to read the book.


Always be learning.


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Tags: be reliable, be responsive, be real, authenticity, be relevant, listen intensely, be real or be gone, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

5 Ways to Deliver an Improved Customer Experience (#cx)

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Feb, 11, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

improved customer experience











Accenture's 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Research was recently published.

While companies are spending a lot, and talking about the importance of providing an improved customer experience, little progress is being made in understanding what customers want and need.

Companies are not making it easier for customers to do business with them.

This is likely a function of companies continuing to focus on revenue and their own products and services versus the needs of the customers.

51% of U.S. customers, and 66% of global customers, have switched providers because of poor experiences. In the U.S., these switches are typically among retailers, retail bank and cable and satellite providers.

Primary reasons for switching include:

  1. 91% are frustrated with having to contact a company multiple times for the same issue.
  2. 90% for being put on hold for a long time.
  3. 89% are tired of repeating their issues to several company reps.
  4. 85% switch because companies don't make it easy to do business with them.
  5. 84% are frustrated by companies that promise one thing and deliver another.
  6. 58% are concerned with inconsistent experiences across a provider's different channels.
I think we've all experienced these issues and have our own unique level of tolerance based on out past experience with the company.
DirecTV had earned my trust and referrals over 15 years. However, when they were unable to provide me with high definition service without even engaging with me to consider other options, all the equity they had built over 15 years was lost. 
Companies are generating and collecting a lot of data on their customers. They may have the analytical tools to glean tremendous insights into what customers need and want. However, all of this work, and more importantly its results, are not being seen by the customer.
Companies need to learn from every customer interaction and tailor future communications and interactions to make them more relevant and meaningful to customers.
I have written before about the need to have a dialog with your customers. Big data can provide a lot of analytics; however, at the end of the day, it can't tell you why a customer did, or did not, do something and what they were thinking at the time.
To this day, I'm not sure DirecTV knows why I'm not a customer. They're still sending me "win-back" mailers even though they left me in the lurch.
I have also written before on the need to have a system which allow you to collect all of the information you learn about the needs and wants of your customer, what they buy, their social media activity and all their CRM data. This information needs to be at the fingertips of every customer-facing employee so they can deliver a personalized interaction witht the customer.
Following are five specific ways you can deliver an improved customer experience:
  1. Deliver a more customized and tailored user experience. Let customers know you hear them, especially their compliants, and that you are addressing them. Actions speak louder than words. Use all of the data you are collecting and provide it to your customer-facing employees so they can provide a great customer experience.

  2. Create a seamless experince across all channels. Customers expect to receive the same level of excellent customer service whether they're in your store/office, on your website, on the phone, on email, on social media. Be prepared, and prepare your employees, to deliver an excellent experience across all these channels.

  3. Use technology to give customers access to your products and services when and where they want. Make it simple to do business with you -- anywhere, anytime. The easier you can make your customers' lives the more value you are providing them and the more equity you are building.

  4. Be mobile friendly. Make sure your website and email are optimized for mobile. This is frequently the first point of contact your prospect with have with your company and it's how 67% of your customers will open your emails. Ask customers about their mobile experience with your firm to understand what's working and what's not working for them.

  5. Engage customers on, and monitor, social media. This is a great way to know how customers really feel and what they're sharing with their friends and colleagues about you and your competition. Empower your employees to engage with customers on social media. 
The more ways and the more places you and your employees can engage customers, the better. Listen intensely to what they have to say.
If a customer complains, say thank you and then figure out how you will address the complaint. Let the customer know you heard them and what action is being taken.
Most importantly, do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. This will earn the customer's trust.
Be open to other suggestions from consumers. They know what they like and they don't like. Encourage them to share with you. If they don't, you won't know or won't be able to ask follow-up questions to get a better understanding.
What are you and your employees doing to improve your customers' experiences?
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Tags: consumer insights, dialog, empower employees, satisfied customers, customer satisfaction measurement and improvement, listen intensely, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

10 Steps to Providing an Outstanding Customer Experience

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Dec, 12, 2013 @ 06:12 AM

10 steps to provide an outstanding customer experience









The bar for providing a "decent" level of customer service is very low for B2C and B2B companies.

Here are 10 steps to take to differentiate your firm from the competition:

  1. Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. If you do this, you'll differentiate yourself, and your firm, from virtually all of your competitors. Being consistent, transparent and honest will build trust with customers.
  2. Care. Find out what your customer wants and make sure they get it. Don't give you customers what you want them to have, give them what they want and need.
  3. Know how your customer wants to hear from you. Communicate with your customer at the time, place and manner in which they want to be communicated.
  4. Find out what your customer defines as an outstanding customer experience. It will vary by customer. Doing so will enable you to provide an outstanding experience that your customers will readily tell their friends, families and colleagues about.

  5. Establish a relationship with your customer. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Get to know your customer and let them get to know you and your team.

  6. Anticipate your customer's needs based on your knowledge of the customer. You know what they've bought from you, when they bought it and hopefully why they bought it. Use that information to provide what your customer will need next.

  7. Empower your employees to engage with the customer. You cannot provide an outstanding customer experience by yourself. You need your employees to help you provide an outstanding customer experience. Your employees likely know your customers needs and wants better than you do.

  8. Be easy, and consistent, to do business with. Simplicity sells. What can you do to make your customer's life easier?

  9. Listen to your customer and ask follow-up questions. Let your customers know you value their feedback, thank them, and take action based on the feedback provided.

  10. Remember what your customer has bought and what they've told you. Have a good customer relationship management software package that you and your employees use religiously to provide an outstanding customer experience.

What actions do you and your employees take to provide an outstanding customer experience.

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Tags: outstanding customer experience, earn your customers trust, empower employees, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

Cultivating Happy Customers For Life

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Nov, 21, 2013 @ 06:11 AM

happy customers for life








Great webinar by Mark Kilens (@markkilens) leader of HubSpot Academy.

It's everyone's job to delight customers.

Loyal customers are worth at least 10 times more their first purchase. In the case of Chipotle, I'm worth 10,000 times.

Forty-eight percent of customers who had a negative experience will tell 10, or more people about it.

Customer perception of your company is based on EVERY interaction with your company.

EVERY email.

EVERY phone call.


EVERY social media exposure.

Everything must be consistent. Consistency builds trust. Trust builds loyalty.

You can't provide awesome service if you don't know who your customers are, what they want or what they value.

Every customer is different. Don't assume you know what they want.

Most customers are not loyal to businesses, they're loyal to what businesses stand for. Chipotle stands for food with integrity. 

Consumers value quality, price, value and results.

A loyal customer will forego a cheaper product or service to do business with you because they have developed an emotional connection with your brand.

There are three pillars of customer delight:

  1. Product -- must be as good or better than anything else currently available.
  2. Communication -- personal, open, honest, transparent and consistent at all times.
  3. Education -- customers want to know about your products, your service, your people, your mission and your values. Let them "see behind the curtain" and involve them in improving your products, services and customer experience.
Here are 8 gudelines that will help you delight your customers and turn them into "raving fans:"
  1. Delight employees -- customers will never love a company until the employees love it first, loyal employees = loyal customers.
  2. Educate employees -- make sure employees know that the customer is always the top priority and to under promise and over deliver.
  3. Empower employees -- let them be themselves, they are the face of your organization.
  4. Listen to your customer -- let them tell you what they're trying to accomplish and then repeat it back to them to ensure you're on the same page.
  5. Ask follow-up questions -- who, what then, why, where and how to fully understand their needs, wants and goals.
  6. Help customers -- educate, businesses that are the best educators will be the most successful; provide solutions.
  7. Follow-up with customers -- ensure all of their problems have been resolved, be easy to do business with, do what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it. Follow-up a couple of days after the interaction to ensure the customer doesn't have any additional questions -- they'll be amazed.
  8. Take action -- measure and track everything and encourage your customers to do the same, use Net Promoter Score to determine the success of your efforts.
Customers do business with those they know, like and trust.
By providing a consistently outstanding customer experience, you will build trust, satisfaction and raving fans.
It's not what you say, but how you make your customers feel that creates a lasting relationship.
People delight people.
You, and your employees, will determine whether or not you have happy customers.
Please let me know if I can assist you in any way.
Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: customers for life, loyal customers, trust, customer satisfaction, earn your customers trust, empower employees, connecting emotionally with customers, customer bonding programs, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

Serve First To Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Oct, 14, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

To Sell Is Human










People buy from those they know like and trust.

So how do you build trust?  

Provide information of value without asking for anything in return.

Become a trusted resource and establish yourself, or your firm, as a thought-leader by sharing your knowledge.

The internet rewards those who share information and penalizes those who hoard information.

According to Daniel Pink (#danielpink), in To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others:

  1. The best way to motivate people is to serve them well -- this includes employees, as well as customers. Your employees will only treat your customers as well as you treat your employees.
  2. Today's most successful salespeople are service oriented -- they make selling personal and purposeful. They develop one-on-one relationships with customers and prospects.  They connect emotionally with customers.
  3. Selling is ultimately about service. Build trust by doing what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it. Fail to do so, and you'll have no trust and no customers.
  4. Be accountable. Be available to your customers, and prospects, when they need you or have questions. Give them your cell phone. Every opportunity to engage directly with a customer or prospect is an opportunity to learn more about how you can meet their needs.
  5. Transparency is key in the age of social media. Sellers are no longer able to take advantage of buyers' lack of information. You must be honest and fair to have business success today. The integrity chain is more important than ever: integrity generates trust, trust generates customers, customers generate revenue. 
  6. Focus on empathic and intellectual skills. Use the data you have to have more meaningful dialogues and relationships with prospects and customers.
By being open, honest and transparent while also providing information of value, you will earn the trust of customers and prospects that will result in greater revenue and more satisfied customers with greater lifetime value.
Are you, and your employees, serving before selling?
Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: dialogue, transparency, trust, earn your customers trust, connecting emotionally with customers, integrity chain, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

16 Ways to Demonstrate Integrity

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Sep, 12, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

The Integrity Chain








Thanks to my good friend,  Dr. Ralph James, the author of The Integrity Chain, for his thoughts on integrity and how integrity leads to trust, which leads to repeat business which leads to profitability.

While Ralph wrote this book for the construction industry, the principles apply to anyone in business.


The following suggestions are his suggestions and what I try to do to build integrity with everyone with whom I work:

  1. Show up on time, every time.
  2. Write down things I've been requested to do, do them and let the person who made the request know it has been done.
  3. Keep all promises or explain the difficulty to the other party as soon as you are aware of your inability to keep the promise.
  4. Focus on performance.
  5. See if anything about my behavior causes inconsistency.
  6. Communicate frequently with everyone to remove doubts about the integrity of the system caused by lack of information -- be transparent.
  7. Do not cover up bad news -- provide a solution to the problem.
  8. Fix processes rather than blame people.
  9. Be disciplined.
  10. Review policy statements to ensure they are consistent with actions.
  11. Control the rate of change in the company culture so people do not lose confidence because of too much change too fast.
  12. Maintain an open-door policy.
  13. Work through channels rather than around channels to maintain the integrity of the reporting process.
  14. Stick with people over the long haul.
  15. Admit mistakes and use mistakes as an opportunity for improvement.  Or, as I'm fond of saying, "Make mistakes early and often, just don't make the same mistake twice."
  16. Insist on honesty in all dealings since my reputation, and the reputation of my business, are essential to success.  I will admit being too honest will not endear you to everyone all the time; however, they will know you are saying what's on your mind rather than being "politically correct."

Which of these do you do to demonstrate integrity?

Do you promote integrity in your workplace?

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Tags: transparency, trust, be reliable, integrity, do what you say you'll do when you say you'