4 tips for building customer trust.

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As a child of the 80’s (and a Chicago native), it should surprise no one that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  is one of my favorite films. There’s a moment in the film when Ferris stops being his goofy self, and makes a profound statement about growing up:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take a look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

That statement applies as much to modern business practices as to how one should live one’s life. Technology is advancing at an incredible rate. Innovation has become an expectation, instead of the exception. The common philosophy of “innovate or die” often results in products and services being released before they are ready, overwhelming consumers with untested technologies they’re aren’t sure they want. 51% of consumers say the rate of innovation in business and industry is moving too fast and, as a result, are losing trust in companies they feel are driven more by money then by innovating to serve the public.

“If you don’t stop and take a look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

The popularity of search engines and social media has given consumers a great deal of insight into the products they purchase. Consumers can follow products from concept, to development, to release—all from their home computer. Yet, end-users still feel left out of the process. Companies are not taking the time to seek out these conversations, nor inviting those customers to contribute to the conversation. By not taking a moment to look around, companies are missing valuable information that could drive product decisions.

Fortunately, the same technology that enables consumers to follow a product’s lifecycle, can also be used to gather their feedback and establish trust. Every call, email, tweet, or post is a chance to make a connection and engage with your client’s wants and needs. In addition to collecting feedback, these interactions are also an opportunity to have an open dialog about your company. The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer found transparency and engagement are two of the most important factors in building consumer trust. Sharing the process of creating a product with your customers has become as, if not more, important than telling them about the product itself.

How To Build Consumer Trust

Small business owners have a big advantage when it comes to building trust, as you are more likely to be less removed from your end customer. Here are just a few ways you can use customer feedback to guide your business practices.

Collaborate With Experts
With all the misinformation being distributed, consumers are wary of information that comes from a single source. Partnering with other companies, industry experts, or even academics can help establish trust with your customers. Is your company looking to adopt a new technology? Host a webinar with another company who is already using the technology, so they can share their story. New law passed that will affect your business? Have an industry expert guest blog about the changes.

Create Your Own Content
Staying competitive as a small business often involves a great deal of reading, tracking developments in your field, and researching what others are doing. Guess what? Your customers are interested in all that too! Use your information gathering to create resources for your customers. Consumers are more likely to see your company as a trusted authority if you share what you’ve learned, and give them a behind-the-scenes look into your business.

Invest in your Employees
Small businesses rely on word of mouth marketing, and employees are just as critical to those efforts as happy customers. Consumers don’t want to do business with companies they perceive as having a poor company culture. If your employees enjoy working for you, they’ll pass along that energy to your customers.

Have a Bigger Vision
The Edelmen survey made it clear consumers are looking for products that will make their lives, and consequently the world, a better place. This translates to your staff as well, particularly as more Millennials enter the workforce looking for jobs that make a difference. Companies that base their decisions on a vision or set of values are more likely to gain consumer trust. Think about what drives you and your business, and build a set of values based on those thoughts. Post your values on your website, share them with your customers, talk about them in blog posts, and award employees who embody those values. You’ll find your customers are less likely to be upset by something new when you can tie the changes back to your values.

We learn at the end of Ferris Bueller (spoilers!) the most important things in life are your relationships. By skipping school one day, Ferris took the time to learn more about his friends, bringing them closer as a result. Companies would do well to learn from Ferris—that prioritizing listening to your customers and building relationships over innovating, will pay off in the end.

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