Effective communication is an essential element of business leadership. In good times and in difficult times, leaders are called to acknowledge, reassure and build hope. And the most effective leadership today requires trust — with your employees and with the people, families and communities your organization serves.
Trust can be tricky to measure, but it is actually simple to build. Think back to when you first learned about saving money as a child. It likely involved a piggy bank, and it almost certainly included the wisdom that small deposits add up over time.
Building trust works in much the same way. Whether you’re dropping a penny or a quarter into a piggy bank — or taking small or large actions as a leader — deposits add up over time.
WHY DOES TRUST MATTER?
A word that gets thrown around a lot, it’s worth considering the specific ways that trust supports the strength and growth of an organization. Put simply, trust builds the foundation of the mission or goals a business, health care or nonprofit organization seeks to accomplish.
“Business success depends on creating a team of employees willing to give their best for a shared purpose and caring for those employees,” said Cindy Leines, CEL founder and chief strategist. “At the same time, it depends on serving customers, clients and patients in a way that delivers satisfaction and builds loyalty over time. All of these success factors are rooted in trust.”
On a good day, a culture of trust helps an organization grow. Employees show up ready to do good work for customers and support one another. This is also when clients and patients are speaking highly of you in conversation offline or online, recommending you to their friends or family.
It’s when things go wrong that trust plays an arguably even more important role. From a mistake made with a customer account to a misunderstanding within the team — or any possible crisis event — trust matters. Whether client, patient or employee, trust improves the benefit of the doubt. And in stressful times, it can work as a driver of understanding, patience and forgiveness.
Leines shared a time when CEL made a mistake with a client project. “This wise business owner told me, ‘It is when people make a mistake that you find out their true values and if they are a good partner.’ And fifteen years later, CEL still has the privilege of serving this client.”
Trust that is gained through day-to-day customer or patient experience builds the loyalty that organizations want with their customers. A client who trusts you will keep coming back. By human nature, people will avoid risking something new or uncertain and choose instead to stay where trust already exists.
HARNESS THE POWER OF MOMENTS
It’s easy to think of times when trust has been won or lost in a crisis event. But the truth is, most trust transactions happen in small, everyday moments. If communication is reserved only for critical issues, the trust bank may be empty when you need it most.
Imagine you’ve hired a technology service provider and, just days after installation, you encounter significant connection issues. You contact the provider and in the hours that follow, the company will have the power to build trust or drain it, depending on their response rate, speed of assistance, communication and quality of care.
“Imagine the trust that can be built,” Leines said, “when you get a prompt reply that leads to excellent service. And that service resolves the problem quickly and completely. Then one of their leaders calls a few hours later to verify that the problem was resolved — and follows up with a certificate of appreciation for your business.”
As trust building goes, those moments are like dropping pennies, dimes, quarters and maybe even a half dollar into the trust piggy bank over a very short time. Deposits of trust will always pay off in the future:
- Follow through on promises and offers to assist
- Authentic and caring customer service that nurtures belonging
- Clear and regular communication with clients, customers and patients
- Proactive, honest engagement with partners and neighboring businesses
- Apologies that are sincere and complete when mistakes happen
- Technology that creates a positive customer experience and builds relationships
- Radical candor conversations that bring resolution with humanity
REMEMBER YOUR PEOPLE
Employees, customers, clients, patients — like all humans — are hardwired with a desire to be recognized, remembered and known. When it comes to deposits of trust, business leaders can’t underestimate the importance of helping people feel like they belong and feel safe with vulnerable questions and concerns.
Your employees may resist a fuss for their birthday or work anniversary, but recognizing these milestones need not be a big affair. An email or short personal note on those occasions or any other time throughout the year can help team members feel appreciated as a person.
One of the smallest and most frequent opportunities business leaders have to create trust deposits is to ensure a warm, prompt and friendly greeting or reply any time someone calls, e-mails or walks through the door. With little effort, any office or business can create a sense of welcome and belonging that’s hard to match.
Sharing information and educating others, whether on LinkedIn, webinars or a live presentation adds to the trust bank.
Another penny-level deposit in the trust bank is the communication that happens before and after appointments. “We all get calls reminding us of an upcoming appointment,” Leines said. “But few of us know the feeling of care that comes when you get a call after that appointment. Especially if the visit included a procedure, after-care steps or a particularly time-sensitive encounter, a phone call tells the patient that you are paying attention to them. That their needs and their comfort matter to you and your business.”
TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Make your website reliable and easy to navigate.
Your website is the virtual door to your business and culture. What do prospective clients and employees see and experience when they visit your site?
Trust is built each time a visitor can easily find information and complete necessary tasks on your site, especially when the experience requires logins or special access points. Creating a positive, trust-building website experience doesn’t necessarily require a total redesign. Small intentional steps, such as examining traffic patterns, creating a custom 404 error page and using alt text to improve accessibility, make a measurable difference.
Make your website credible with Google.
Whatever expert services you provide — banking, healthcare, learning or something else — your website should make that obvious. Writing and creating consistent online content makes a website visitor feel confident they found a provider they need. It also tells Google and other search algorithms that you are who you say you are. And this generally translates to better website traffic.
Claim your Google My Business site.
Whether you’ve looked it up or not, every organization has a Google My Business (GMB) Profile that shows up in search. Claiming your profile gives you access to make sure searchers find information that is accurate, clear and consistent with your brand promise. Claiming also unlocks your ability to customize photos, operating hours and key information your clients need to know. You will gain the power to request the removal of online reviews that violate Google’s policies and protect against confusing or fraudulent information. You can even create a question and answer section in your profile to help current and prospective customers quickly find the information they need without another click. Be sure to choose high-quality photos that maximize your first impression opportunity, whether physical location, a friendly employee team or services in action.
Be consistent on social media.
Even with fun and engaging content, your customers should always find the you they expect, on whatever social media platform they find your business. Create a social media plan to keep your content and frequency consistent from week to week, and use these platforms to extend your brand messages into a two-way social conversation. If a Facebook page is part of your social media strategy, get to know the Business Manager tool right away. Using Business Manager will protect your access and assets and prevent a permanent page lockout or shutdown.
Like that childhood piggy bank, it is never too late to make a small deposit. And for business leaders, it’s always the right time to make a daily habit of dropping a coin in that bank of trust with clients, patients and employees. You’ll find your organization gaining loyalty and strength as the deposits add up. And that’s always good for business.