There’s no faking it, our customers and prospects have finely tuned antennae when it comes to spotting our intent. There’s a part of the brain known as the amygdala that does a better job of sensing danger (and sincerity) than the reasoning part. It creates our emotional reaction to circumstances and tells us if we can trust what we hear and see. You can’t gain a customer’s (a friend’s, a family member’s) confidence, and be liked, unless you can first get past their instinctive feelings about your intent.

In 2012, Greg Petro wrote an article in Forbes about trust in retail, and the first paragraph really brings it home:

“Trust is a funny thing. It is something that is highly valued, but cannot be bought. It must be earned, but cannot be sold. Its lifespan is as long as you care to maintain it.”

I think everyone involved in commerce of any kind should take these words to heart, because you cannot ignore them if you expect to grow your business. Without trust, without integrity, there will be few sales beyond the impulse buy.

So how can retailers consistently build trust with their customers? Here are four key things to keep in mind:

  1. Build trust within your organizationYour customer-facing employees are a reflection of your company’s values, and often the first touch with your customers. When they believe in your product or service and trust that you’ll walk the talk when it comes to providing excellent customer experience, that trust shines through to buyers. However, those companies that go beyond and truly take care of their employees’ needs gain an even bigger advantage. You’ve heard the adage that the eyes are the windows to the soul? Well, happy employees who feel secure in their jobs and love what they do are the windows to your organization’s soul. Fostering trust with your employees, vendors and others you do business with internally seeps into their interactions with other people, including potential customers.
  2. Be consistentNothing kills trust faster than inconsistent behavior. If you promise something, always, ALWAYS deliver on that promise. If you don’t—your competition will! People go to Chick-fil-A because the food is consistent, and because they know their experience will be consistent as well. The franchise is a good example of how setting and fulfilling expectations is an integral part of building trust and loyalty with customers. How you deliver is every bit as important as what you deliver.
  3. Social Listening NOT just Social Watching The person who came up with the concept of “social listening” probably didn’t intend for the name to be ironic, but here we are. So many brands treat social listening as little more than another item on the analytics checklist. They look at the numbers, check out the latest social marketing content, come up with an idea, and then work backward to make it fit their own audience. If they’re really ambitious, they might take a spin through the mentions on the company’s branded social pages (before promptly going back to ignoring them). Pay attention people… engage, interact, and build relationships.
  4. Keep in touchI can’t stress enough how important it is to stay in touch if you want to build trust. The dentist says “Ignore your teeth and they’ll go away,” and it’s true of your customers, too! There are so many avenues now for staying in touch, and I’m not just talking about one-sided methods like newsletters or coupon mailings. Use everything at your disposal…social channels, surveys, phone calls—any way you can employ a one-on-one, two-way communication. The more you engage in conversation with your customer, the stronger your relationship becomes.

These are just four ways to help build trust and strengthen your relationships with customers, but they have something in common—authenticity. Flashy ads and programmatic marketing won’t do the trick; your customers are rapidly becoming numb to those efforts. Instead, spend your money where it will do the most good in building relationships.

Remember… Real trumps Perfect every time, because Real creates Trust!


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