The Importance of Trust
The dictionary defines the word trust as “a task given to a person by someone who has the belief and confidence that it will be done well.” In our profession a client who trusts us is the ultimate relationship. We’ve all built several of these, but we can all use many more. How do we build trust with newer clients, and how do we maintain trust over the years with those we serve?
I thought about the relationships I have in my life with those I trust completely as professionals. What was it about these few individuals that made me look forward to doing business with them?
One such person is my source for building and remodeling. He is a one man company who I’ve used to remodel my galleries, build my new kitchen, and complete many other important tasks over the past 20 years. His name is Keith.
I didn’t always have a complete level of trust in Keith. When we first started doing projects together, I insisted on quotes and sketches and deadlines like I would with anyone else. As time has gone by I realize that I never even get a price up front anymore, rarely discuss details and deadlines. Why? I have complete trust in Keith’s ability, fairness and reliability. I’m a customer for life.
A client who trusts us is the ultimate relationship
How can we as business owners be more like Keith? What was it about working with him that led me, a confessed control freak, to completely trust him?
The first thing I realized is that this level of trust was EARNED over time. When someone uses our service for the first time they often don’t know what to expect. Something that speeds up the process is a referral. When someone we trust refers us to someone new, our level of trust in the new person is appreciably higher than if they were not recommended. Creating a system that rewards those who refer others can grow trust in your business.
Keith has earned my trust by being flexible in his approach to the various tasks I’ve given him. When he helped build our award winning gallery where the emphasis was on creating something totally unique, detailed and of high quality, he used materials and designs that provided the look we desired. In this case price wasn’t the major factor and he understood that. Conversely, when he remodeled our bathrooms and bedrooms just before we sold our home, he approached the project with a much greater emphasis on saving me money. Flexibility is a key ingredient in building trust when selling custom framing. Even if we have sold numerous times to the same client over the years, their reason for framing a particular piece can vary with each visit. A client who frequently invests in the best designs and materials for their home may have a totally different need when framing something for a gift or their business. To build trust, we have to listen each and every time to the current needs of our clients. Selling them the wrong type of product because you didn’t ask about their current needs is a trust killer.
Another reason I trust Keith is because he is consistent. He has never surprised me with an uncharacteristic fee or poor performance. When problems or changes occur on a job, he points them out, discusses the options and lets me make the decision. Creating a consistent high quality product is vital to building trust. No body likes to be surprised or placed in the position of complaining. To build trust, we have to have a system in place that catches problems before customers see them. When problems occur, we need to inform our clients, suggest solutions and allow them to decide on the best solution for them. It’s ok to have something go wrong, but trust goes out the window when we hide problems or make decisions that we think are best for our clients.
Keith’s nothing if he’s not reliable. We once worked on a 4 month renovation of a 10,000 square foot building, and his truck pulled up EVERY morning at 7:30 am, regardless of how hard the day before was, how bad the weather was, or how he felt. Our customers want to know that their project will be done when you say it will be done, and they want it done in a week or less. Making clients wait, missing due dates or forgetting to include things like information pockets on dust covers, the type of hanging hardware they requested and other details keep us from being completely trusted. Teach your teams to UNDER promise and OVER deliver- exceed the expectations of your clients and trust grows.
Trust also grows when you add value to your services that aren’t included in the price. In Keith’s case, he shops for materials and doesn’t mark them up or charge me for the time spent picking them out. He even watches sale flyers and buys my materials when it will save me the most money! Talk about a trust builder, he makes it easy to tackle big jobs. Providing little extras like carrying out projects, delivery, home consultations, finding art, and giving out tips for care and display of art goes a long way to deepening trust- it says you really care about the relationship. Give a special thank you gift to that hard to please client. Provide referrals to services like art appraisers and conservators that you trust – make life easier for your clients to do more with art and framing.
Keith also makes me the beneficiary of his expertise. Many years of constructing things have given him insight into the proper ways to make something look great or last longer. His knowledge has saved me from making many poor investments in materials over the years. Our customers learn to trust us when we make the correct recommendations on materials and design. Knowing when to suggest museum glass, when to float an image, or use conservation methods of mounting are an important part of our responsibility in a trusted relationship. It’s our obligation to inform the client of proper framing techniques and materials and then we can let them make the decision.
Finally, Keith always reviews a completed project for my approval when he finishes it. This is important. We need to ASK our clients how they like what we have done for them. Trust is built project by project, and past performance never means as much as the present. Openly pursue any hesitation a client may have about a project they are picking up. Call to see how the piece looks once they have it home. Consider guaranteeing their satisfaction by offering to correct design and craftsmanship without extra charges or questions- this says TRUST ME. Building trust means not being afraid to hear about problems. Knowing about problems gives you the chance to fix them and keeps the relationship growing.
Gaining the trust of your client is the pinnacle of providing great customer service. Growing that trust creates customers for life who gladly refer those who trust them. Put the steps and procedures in place to allow your team to build trusting relationships and watch morale skyrocket as they experience the satisfaction of being relied upon to do a great job.