By Terry L. Brock
Whew! It seems that a week doesn’t go by without seeing falling poll numbers for George W. Bush. The latest debacle was the unveiling about the NSA (National Security Agency) and how surveillance has been conducted on American phone calls.
No, this is not a political piece gravitating to either side on this debate. The “We need it to protect ourselves from the terrorists” vs. the “Privacy is being destroyed” debates are for another forum. However, I’m concerned about what the whole issue is doing to trust in general---and specifically with business and the ramifications for your own business.
Over on the other side of the pond, we see Tony Blair, the Prime Minister in the UK besieged due to a philandering Deputy Prime Minister, falling poll numbers and even members of his own party wondering about his departure.
Trust is at a low ebb in our world today. People are more skeptical than ever---even to the point of not trusting anyone. This lack of trust has serious considerations for business and for what you do in your own business. But there is a very bright side to all this (more on that below).
Trust is the key to building any kind of relationship. It starts slowly and builds over time with a steady, consistently reliable stream of experiences and exposures. Say you will do something at a given time and follow through and that helps to build trust slowly but surely. It is natural, and even wise to be careful before trusting someone completely. As you get to know someone you gain their confidence. Harvard Professor and author Rosabeth Kantor wrote in her work, Confidence, that it is one of the most critical skills for success. You have to have it in yourself and your abilities and others have to have it in you to trust you.
However, with the political problems in the US, the UK and other countries more and more people distrust not only political leaders but others. In the US recently we saw a 68- year-old Catholic priest, Father Gerald Robinson convicted of murdering a nun back in 1980. This won’t help a tarnished image from sex-scandals that emerged a while back and decreased trust in the Catholic Church among many.
But what does this mean for you and me in our businesses? How will that lack of trust going to effect your business?
The mood is that people--- read your customers--- are less trusting of others in general. They wonder about ulterior motives. They’ve been burnt many times before and like a child who has been burnt with a hand on a hot stove, they are very hesitant to not only put their hand on any stove (even a cool one) but to even go close to the kitchen!
But the good news trumps the dangers. We human beings are desperately looking for someone that we can believe. That is what keeps us coming back for more. It is what we really want. We want a company that genuinely, sincerely has our best interests at heart. We want a company that we can know will provide the goods and services as promised and will continue to be like a rock for the future.
Here Are 5 Key Principles That Can Work For You In Your Business:
1. Realize the global conditions that exist. Your customers are going to be more jaded and distrustful in general as they see political and larger-scope issues emerge questioning various people. This is particularly ominous when they have trusted a given politician or respected individual at one time and then were later let down. Having an awareness of what is in the environment is the first step to dealing with it.
2. Put systems in place so you minimize glitches. Often when glitches happen, it is not because someone means to hurt the other. It is often just something falling through the cracks. However, the perception on the part of the customer can be that your business is just like those nasty politicians with whom your customers are irritated. It’s been said many times before---“Proper prior planning prevents pretty poor performance.” Plan well in advance and be ready for a variety of problems before they occur.
3. Prepare for glitches---it works that way on this planet. In spite of your best plans and all the care, you are going to experience glitches. Take that extra effort to respond to customers and turn around a negative. Customer service professionals tell us that you can build an even stronger relationship with a customer when you proactively address their concern and let them know in a tangible, real, customer-oriented way that you are doing something positive to address the situation. Problems are inevitable. But you can plan for them and build “customer satisfaction invoking responses” into your systems to handle a lot of the glitches that can and do happen.
4. Consistently provide value and positive customer service. Train your people regularly how to deal with common problems and questions. On-going education of yourself and your people in both technical and human-relationship areas helps to set a general mood that goes beyond a robotic way of dealing with problems. Nothing is more annoying or frustrating than hearing a robotic “Our customers come first” voice mail system that repeats obnoxiously while a customer is on the line getting more and more frustrated.
5. Be proactive in customer service. This means providing value. An e-mail newsletter (Ezine) that contains customer-requested information rich with personal media (think audio and video) can communicate a warm, personal and information-rich series of value-oriented messages. Remember to keep it short (we’re all busy), relevant and very practical for the end user.
The politicians might be loosing ground in their poll numbers but you can be the source customers turn to again and again. Put your systems in place and focus on what customers what. Remember, it is not about the E-Commerce (the Electronics); It is about the R-Commerce (the Relationships) in business that matter.
Terry Brock is a marketing coach who helps business owners market more effectively leveraging technology. He shows busy professionals how to squeeze more out of their busy days using the right rules and tools. He can be reached at 407-363-0505, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website at www.terrybrock.com.
Copyright © 2006, Terry Brock, All Rights Reserved Internationally. No portion may be reprinted or used in any way without prior written permission.