Trust is critical in any client-provider relationship. Your clients should be able to trust your quality of work, ease of communication, and that you can deliver what you promise. Not to mention, customer trust is an ideal way to gain a competitive advantage over your market.
At the start of every relationship, building customer trust should be a core value you focus on. Over time, serving some of the biggest-brand clients in the world, I developed my own core set of six steps for how to build customer trust.
"Delivering what you promise is the most basic way you build customer trust." — Ray Grainger, Mavenlink CEO
Do what you said you would do
Unfortunately, it’s becoming rare that a service provider delivers exactly what they said they would. Delivering what you promise is the most basic way you build customer trust. If you say you’ll deliver a project with a specific date, budget, and quality, doing so will be key to your client’s willingness to continue working with you. If you can deliver your promises, it is likely you will gain a competitive advantage over businesses challenging your success.
Charge what you quoted
Provide a quote you can stick to. Your clients expect you understand the cost of your services before they begin working with you. Too often, vendors who charge time and materials will come back mid-project with a higher cost estimate, for any number of reasons. Respect that your clients came to you partly because of the cost you quoted. Stick to this with only a small margin of wiggle room. Clients will appreciate you sticking to your original price, and with that you will come out above the competition.
Be cautious with retainers
Retainers may send the wrong message. To me, they can indicate a vendor might not know how much time a project will take. They might have trouble managing cash flow, or a habit of needing more time and budget than initially quoted. When I pay a retainer, I understand my provider is making payroll and profit for the duration of our engagement. I expect results in return, and too often projects on retainer models leave me with greater costs than projected. Businesses that rely on retainers may likely fail to keep up with the competition of services.
Set honest expectations
Avoid agreeing to a service outside your expertise, unless you can tap the right people to help you deliver. Your clients will appreciate if you can refer them to someone who specializes in that type of work. Getting the right people on the right projects is imperative for businesses looking to improve margins. Honesty is truly the right policy when client reviews are part of your businesses success.
"Some people really enjoy helping others. That’s who to hire." — Ray Grainger, Mavenlink CEO
Hire people with character
I look for people who share my values. That means I hire 1) professionals 2) who demonstrate empathy and 3) a sense of urgency and 4) and who understand our clients’ needs. Some people really enjoy helping others. That’s who to hire. It is also a great tactic for setting yourself apart from the competition.
Respect your client: Avoid going around them
Make time to understand how your clients’ internal communication channels work, and operate within those channels. You will lose trust by going to someone’s boss, for instance, when there was a more appropriate person to talk to first. Talking to the right person shows you respect their internal structure. Your clients will not only be more likely to share information with you. They’ll also trust you.
Trust is the foundation for any successful relationship and it is a requirement to successfully compete in today's services economy. It’s hard to quantify; however, your clients can feel it. To ensure your clients can trust you:
- Deliver what you promised
- Don’t overcharge on your estimate
- Avoid retainers
- Stay honest
- Hire good people
- Respect your client’s information hierarchy