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The Trust Equation: Build Trust and Credibility for Your Business

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Seal the deal by building trust and credibility

Close your eyes and think of a brand you truly trust. What made you choose them over countless others? Trust is the cornerstone of customer loyalty, and in this article, we delve into the art and science of cultivating trust in your small business, ensuring your brand stands out in a crowded marketplace.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, trust is to believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you or that something is safe and reliable.

Trust can improve customer loyalty and satisfaction. When business owners appear trustworthy to their customers, they show that they care about them and value their relationship. Customers are more likely to recommend and repeat business with brands that are trustworthy.

Key Takeaways

  1. Trust Fuels Loyalty: Build trust and credibility to develop customers who are more likely to remain loyal and recommend your brand.

  2. The Trust Equation Matters: Understand the components of the trust equation—credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation. By actively working on these factors, you can enhance the trustworthiness of your business.

  3. Transparency and Admitting Mistakes: Embrace transparency and openly admit mistakes. This builds trust and creates a stronger bond with customers who appreciate honesty and authenticity.

Charles H. Green developed the trust equation to show how we build trustworthiness. The trust equation uses four factors that affect trust: credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation. The equation is:

Trustworthiness = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-orientation

Credibility is how believable and honest a person is. It is based on their knowledge, expertise, and reputation. You build your credibility by demonstrating your authority and expertise.

Reliability is how dependable and consistent a person is. You build reliability through your actions, promises, and results. You build your reliability when you follow through and deliver what was promised. Your social proof of testimonials and accomplishments helps build reliability for new customers.

Intimacy is how comfortable and safe a person feels in confiding in you - think psychological safety. Customers experience psychological safety when you have empathy, respect confidentiality, and respect their wishes. For example, having a privacy policy to provide security that you will protect their data and using HTTPS helps develop intimacy so that your customers will give you their email or credit card.

Self-orientation is self-seeking a person appears. The higher this number is, the more likely this person appears to be meeting their own needs in disregard of others. This denominator underlines all other factors and will quickly degrade them if it is high.

The trust equation shows that trustworthiness is increased by having high levels of credibility, reliability, and intimacy, and low levels of self-orientation. The higher the trustworthiness, the higher the trust. The lower the trustworthiness, the lower the trust. The trust equation can be used to assess and improve the trustworthiness of oneself and others, by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each factor and taking actions to enhance or reduce them accordingly.

Ways to Destroy Trust

The most common way to betray trust is by appearing to be self-serving (having a high ‘self-orientation’). The line between trying to make money and serving customers can be difficult to draw, but when you seem to care only about your bottom line and not solve your customers’ problems, you will appear self-serving and lose trust. It may gain extra profits in the short term, but it will not create a sustainable business model. Besides outright stealing or using deceptive practices like Bernie Madoff (which you are not doing if you are reading this article) a business owner can appear self-oriented in several ways, such as:

  • Being defensive. For example, when a customer is not happy with their service, and you spend the whole time trying to defend what you did instead of thinking about how you could make it right, you appear to be more concerned with protecting your self-interests, and it will erode trust.

  • Avoiding bad news. When something bad happens with your company, and you don’t tell your customers. For example, Last Pass did not immediately tell customers about a data breach and lost my business and many others. Even when businesses are not upfront with pricing and keep adding things in, customers think businesses are trying to protect themselves and not looking out for customers.

  • Failing to keep promises. In addition to not being reliable, business owners who fail to keep their promises to customers can also appear self-serving. This can include failing to deliver products or services on time, providing inaccurate information, or making promises that they cannot keep. These businesses show they care about the sale and getting the income but do not deliver value for the customer.

  • Prioritizing personal gain over customer satisfaction. Business owners who prioritize their own interests over the needs of their customers can appear self-serving. This can include charging excessive fees, providing poor-quality products or services, or failing to address customer complaints.

How to appear less self-oriented to build trust and credibility

To lower your self-orientation score, you want to demonstrate that you truly put the customer’s needs above yours. Some strategies to show your customers they matter:

  • Admit to mistakes. Although we often want to hide in shame when we make mistakes, being open and honest when mistakes happen will keep customers and ramp up your trustworthiness ten times. You will win some super fans if you are honest about mistakes. However, that doesn’t mean you should try to make mistakes or not make efforts to repair the damage from the mistakes!

  • Go above and beyond. When you surpass what is expected by providing excellent value for your audience, they see you are truly looking out for their interests rather than your own. Of course, it is in your best interest in the long run,

  • Be transparent. Be as transparent as possible with your processes. Using terms and conditions with details of products and services upfront is one way you can force yourself to be more transparent by thinking through specifically what is or is not involved in a purchase and how you handle payments and refunds. When customers know you have this information available, they don’t feel like you are trying to trick them because you have provided all the details.

  • Seek feedback. Just by asking for suggestions or feedback, you demonstrate that you are putting the customer before your comfort. As an added bonus, learning from your customers will help you improve your products and services and your future sales as you adapt some of their suggestions.

Book a Free Consultation to Design an Impactful Week

Together, we will identify one impactful action to ramp up your know, like and trust factor and develop an achievable plan to put it into action.

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