Of all the attributes your business could develop, few are more important than building trust. When it comes to customers, 81 percent say that trust in a business is a deciding factor when deciding who to buy from. And trust is equally important with employees and business partners. In fact, research from the Harvard Business Review reveals that workers at “high-trust companies” experience 74 percent less stress, while also being 50 percent more productive.
Unfortunately, building trust is sometimes easier said than done — particularly if you operate in an industry not known for trust. We’ve all heard stories about shady used car salesmen, but many other industries, such as tech, also face their fair share of skepticism. All too often, this distrust is deserved.
The good news, however, is that regardless of industry, you can take actionable steps to build trust — and few things will pay greater dividends in the long run.
1. For Trust, Focus On Foundational Elements
What allows a business to build trust? This can be hard for businesses to pin down because there is often disconnect between leaders, employees and clients. Fortunately, a 2021 PwC survey was able to identify four foundational areas where all three groups were closely aligned in their perceptions.
In order of priority, consumers, employees and businesses all viewed “protecting data and cybersecurity,” proper treatment of employees, “ethical business practices” and “admitting to mistakes” as crucial elements of trust. While perceptions of whether other activities helped build trust differed, these four areas were largely consistent across each group.
To build trust, then, it can help when your business starts by focusing on these key elements. Leaders should hold themselves accountable for how the business is performing in each area, and undertake efforts to implement change when needed.
Of course, communicating your efforts in these areas can also be valuable for building trust in your business. People need to know what you’re doing, and being transparent and open will go a long way in improving public perception.
2. Understand (and Adapt) to Client Goals to Build Trust
There’s more to building trust than acting in an ethical manner. After all, your clients depend on you to provide quality work for them. It doesn’t matter how honest you are — if you can’t meet their needs, they aren’t going to trust you with their business.
The value of this became especially apparent during a recent conversation with Kim K. Melillo, CEO of Sure Oak. She explained, “We’ve found that taking the time to understand the businesses we work with and their specific goals is key to making SEO fit into their overall digital marketing strategy. Of course, this approach is applicable regardless of industry. Doing due diligence to understand a client’s objectives, competition, trends and so on allows you to customize your offerings in a way that will deliver better results. A more holistic approach creates real win-wins.”
When business partnerships are fully aligned on KPIs and have a clear understanding of the desired outcomes of their work together, partners have clear direction and guidance for their work.
The same is true of consumer-facing businesses. The better you understand what your customers want or need — and adapt as necessary to deliver required outcomes — the easier it will be to gain lasting trust. When people feel their money was well-spent the first time around, they will be much more willing to do business with you again.
3. Make Sure Words Align With Actions — Always
The admonition “Do as I say, not as I do” is already problematic when given by a parent to a child, or by anyone else in authority. And while a business leader is unlikely to ever say this, they can all too easily send this message when their words and actions don’t align.
The business world is rife with examples of this. As Christine Alemany writes for the Harvard Business Review, “Think back to summer 2020, when PR teams across industries jumped to distribute public denouncements of systemic racism. People were quick to call out the performative allyship of companies such as Glossier, whose public anti-racism pledge was at odds with former employees’ recounts of on-the-job discrimination and toxicity. So make sure you back up any announcements with actual steps.”
When your words don’t live up to your company’s track record, consumers are going to call you out and you are going to lose trust, rather than build it. Whenever your company takes a stance or makes a promise, you must ensure that your actions fully support it.
Consistency in your actions — whether it be in support of an environmental cause or simply offering transparency to your clients — is what ensures that people will actually believe you when you make a claim on your website or put out a PR statement.
Build Trust to Build a Better Business
When organizations aim to be truly trustworthy in their words and actions, they don’t just look better in the public eye — they also position themselves to better serve their clients and get better results from their employees and partners. Your efforts to build trust lay a crucial foundation for lasting success, and can ultimately be a key differentiating factor within your industry. You can break out of the norms and build a powerful brand identity based largely on trust.