It’s all about Trust. Trust me.
Let me repeat this, it’s important. It’s all about TRUST. It’s core to everything we need to do as local entrepreneurs: we have to trust our employees, our vendors, our customers, and, of course, ourselves. The flip side of that: all of these groups need to trust us, too. Someone could easily dedicate an entire blog to addressing trust between a local entrepreneur and any one of those groups. That’s too much to tackle for me. The focus of my passion, and the focus of this blog, is building a community around your business. And that means building trust between you and your customers.
Thousands of years ago (OK, like 4 years ago, but that’s like 1000s of years ago in interwebs time), Matt McGee wrote a post about how the most important thing you can do to improve your search engine ranking is gain the trust of search engines and users. It’s still 100% true. Now, I’m not here to write yet another blog about SEO. There’s plenty of those out there written by plenty of experts. I’m here to talk about how to use social technology to build a community around your business. While SEO is an important part of this (you want your local customers to see your business before your competitors’ when they search for your business type on Google, Bing or Yahoo!), it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
How to build trust? Use the what I’ll call the Golden Rule++ (this is a computer programming notation that means “increment something”–please forgive the nerdy influence; I’m a software engineer at heart): think about how you’d want to be treated as a customer of your business, and then plus it up. Say you own a coffee shop. Would you want to be thanked by the cashier when you check out (with a smile)? For sure. So how about working it out so that at least a few times a day you, Mr. or Mrs. Local-Entrepreneur-Coffee-Shop-Owner-Face-of-the-Business, take a break from whatever you’re doing to run your business and say a personal thank-you (with a smile!) to your customers. And while you’re at it, take a minute to ask them what they think of their coffee, or how they like the new chairs you bought, or whatever. Then listen, really listen, to what each one has to say. Hopefully it’ll be good. If it is, hand him a thank you card that “inducts” him into your customer hall of fame (we’ll talk more about the details of the customer hall of fame in an upcoming post; stay tuned). If it’s bad (and it really will be bad sometimes, promise), apologize and make it right. If you can’t make it right immediately, promise you’ll make it right as soon as you possibly can. And, here’s the kicker: hand her a thank you card that “inducts” her into your customer hall of fame. Yes, I’m serious. Ask her to give you another chance, and promise her it’ll be worth it. Then, if she does come back (I’ll bet she will) make sure it is.
We’ll talk a lot more about trust as we go, and how to build it into your how your business works, but for now, the key point is this: build trust with your customers in everything you do. Someone, somewhere, is watching, and he or she may just be your next biggest fan.
What do you do to build trust with your customers? What would your Customer Hall of Fame look like? Let’s talk about it in the comments.