Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Trust is crucial if you want to build a loyal customer base and a positive reputation for your business. Establishing trust not only helps you keep your current customers but attracts new customers to your business, making it essential for any entrepreneur looking to go the distance.
Building trust isn’t as easy as it used to be, and customer satisfaction has been declining for years. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), 80% of companies have failed to increase customer satisfaction since 2010.
The ACSI found that most customers naturally dislike certain industries. For instance, cable companies, airlines and health insurance providers are automatically seen as less trustworthy by many consumers.
If your industry puts you at a disadvantage, you’re going to have to work even harder to build trust and customer loyalty. Here are six strategies you can use to build trust in an untrustworthy industry:
1. Embrace transparency
Embracing transparency is one of the best ways to build trust and customer loyalty. If you want to build trust, you’ll need to always be upfront in your interactions with customers and avoid making false or misleading claims.
You should also communicate openly with your customers and share information about your company’s policies and pricing. Talk about any potential risks that come with your product at the beginning of the sales process, and disclose any relevant information about your company’s sourcing or manufacturing processes if it’s the subject of debate.
Transparency also means being upfront about any issues that arise in your business. Most customers are willing to forgive you for a mistake, assuming your company takes responsibility and does what it can to fix the situation.
2. Follow through on your promises
If you want to build customer loyalty, you have to do what you say you’re going to do. Following through on your promises can look like maintaining a consistent brand image, providing a reliable service and being consistent in how you deliver products.
Always honor any warranties your business offers, and provide customers with any additional help they need. You should also strive to operate with integrity and engage in socially responsible business practices.
Lastly, take ownership of any issues that arise, and be willing to do what it takes to solve the problem. This may mean offering customers refunds, allowing them to exchange items or making significant changes to products or services.
3. Encourage customer engagement
Communicating regularly with your customers is another way to build trust and establish a sense of loyalty. For example, you can send out a regular newsletter where you share information about your company. You can also make customers feel valued by creating a loyalty program, hosting events or building a social media community.
But communication is a two-way street, so you always want to respond to your customers’ complaints and concerns. If you’re in a notoriously untrustworthy industry, your company should consider a dedicated customer service team that’s available to resolve issues quickly.
Your business needs to be open to customer feedback and willing to make changes based on that feedback, too. Sending out surveys and asking your customers to leave you online reviews is a great place to start.
If you receive negative feedback, be sure to respond in a timely and professional manner. Customers know that occasionally things will go wrong — it’s how your business deals with it that makes the difference.
4. Utilize customer testimonials
Customer testimonials are a great way to build trust with potential customers. They provide social proof that your product or service is trustworthy and can be a valuable marketing tool for businesses of all sizes. Customers will always believe in an unbiased review more than any influencer or corporate messaging strategy.
You can also ask customers to provide a video testimonial. Offering incentives, like a discount or gift card, can help encourage current customers to participate.
5. Invest in security
One of the quickest ways to lose customer trust is by putting their personal or financial information at risk. Equifax, Target and Marriott were all involved in major data breaches that exposed millions of customers’ information.
Data breaches don’t just happen to big businesses — attacks against small businesses have been rising in recent years. Small businesses tend to be less prepared for a data breach and usually don’t have cyber insurance to deal with it, making them a prime target for cyber actors.
You can invest in security by installing firewalls, antivirus software and other security tools to protect your network. You should also train employees on security best practices and how to identify and avoid potential threats.
Conduct regular security assessments and audits to identify vulnerabilities and assess the effectiveness of your current security measures. You can also collaborate with security experts and consultants to look for ways to improve security in your business.
6. Be easy to contact
There are tons of benefits to utilizing automation in your business. For instance, chatbots allow you to respond to customers after hours and can aid your overall customer service strategy.
But, as you know, nothing is more frustrating than attempting to contact a business and being unable to get a real person on the phone or contacting customer service and having to wait on hold for an hour first.
If a customer has a problem with your product or service and they’re unable to reach anyone, it sends a clear message that they don’t matter to your business. And, once customers feel like they don’t matter, it’s almost impossible to repair the relationship.
That’s why you must have an easily accessible customer support team. When you’re easy to contact and provide customers with the help they need, it shows that you care about them beyond the initial purchase.
Again, building trust is not easy, but by embracing transparency, keeping your promises, encouraging customer engagement, utilizing customer testimonials and investing in security, you can stand out as a trustworthy business even in an untrustworthy industry.