Volume 14, Issue 5 - July/August 2012

Customer Service
tips for quality service

Trust and Transparency
by Carl Tompkins

Well, a new landmark for business in America: Two new topics of importance to the American consumer have finally come to be equal in value to “quality” and “service.” According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, the subjects of “trust” and “transparency” have reached the top of the checklist as to what causes customers to buy, both in the national and international market places. The Edelman Trust Barometer has become one of the most trusted resources on the economy and market place and can be accessed through the Web.

With these two new topics in mind, my first comment to our AGRR™ family of readers is that both have been around from the very beginning, so they’re not really new but, probably better put, receive more attention and emphasis by consumers since they no longer can be taken for granted.

While “trust” and “transparency” are two distinct terms, they are closely related. Transparency simply defines the elimination of anything being hidden—no secrets; no surprises. From this description, we can deduce that businesses operating with full transparency will find an easier path in building trust with customers. And when a customer trusts a product or service, the most important criteria of the buying process is established. Price falls well below the subject of trust. How low must a price be to overcome a lack of trust?

The additions of “trust” and “transparency” to the subjects of “quality” and “service” within the consumer buying criteria is actually good news for businesses, because it creates additional checkpoints ahead of price, and provides further opportunities of differentiation by the supplier. Follow these tips to make sure you are as transparent as possible and a company that can be trusted.

1. No fine print: Fine print on the back page in faint pink is language that companies do not want customers to read because it always is bad news that will deter the sale.

2. Clearly define 100 percent of everything: This takes effort but so does everything that is good! Never should a customer be left in the situation of feeling or stating, “I did not know that.” This perception creates the closing impression that the company was not forthcoming and tricked the client into the sale. Not only will this client never come back, but he will prevent 11 new clients from ever contacting your company.

3. Communicate ahead of the fact: Operating under the fact that most surprises experienced by customers are unwelcome, be sure that all rules, ways of conducting business, policies and warranties are communicated to the customer prior to the sale being completed. In most cases, policies, procedures and rules are never known by the customer until they are used against him by the company.

1. Under-promise and over-deliver: Probably a worn-out phrase, but only because of its needed reminder. I do not know of anything worse than being oversold by a salesperson; someone who blabs a hundred miles an hour, saying anything and everything possible that will never happen in the course of the purchase. At minimum, know exactly what you can provide consistently as a company, state just those things and then deliver. Feel free to do more, but never less.

2. Knowledge earns trust: There is not one thing a representative can do better in earning customer trust than to have supreme knowledge of their products and services. Those demonstrating the highest degree of knowledge are champions in the “win the trust” game. This calls for companies to do much better at training than they do. One of my own experiences proving this point comes through the auto glass industry when I learned of a customer service representative in Kansas City who had a 71 percent close rating. In quizzing her supervisor, Rick listed a few things that separated her from the rest, and the number-one factor was that she was one of his companies most talented and knowledgeable installation technicians. Need I say more? Training is critical and yet, today, it hardly exists; and we wonder why business is so tough.

3. Have a heart: This past April, I attended a city leadership prayer breakfast that focused on the developments of my community, Spokane, Wash. As part of the meeting—attended by more than 500 people—prayers were provided for the spires of community, which were education, government, church, arts and entertainment, family and business. During the business prayer, some words I’ll never forget were spoken: “Lord, allow us to reach new and welcomed levels of success by leading with our hearts and allowing our intellects to follow, for this is Your way and what truly causes our businesses to best serve our employees and customers alike.” To build trust, lead with your heart to support the Golden Rule. Never disappoint a customer. Dazzle them with an experience that will be most memorable.

Adding “trust” and “transparency” to the buying criteria of customers is good news. Even better will be the new business you can secure as a result. I hope that I can trust you to take advantage of these tips because you deserve the results of doing so.

Carl Tompkins is the global marketing resources manager for Sika Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich., and the author of “Winning at Business.” He is based in Spokane, Wash.

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