All professionals depend on the trust of their clients, and unfortunately when trust is broken it takes a long time to get it back – so how do you avoid losing the faith of your clients in the first place?
Trust is the thing which makes a client want your advice, pay for it and follow it.
It’s a fundamental bedrock of a business relationship, but much like termites eating a structure from within you may not know you’re losing trust with your clients until it’s too late.
Many of the things we do to lose trust with clients, we do unwittingly. We’re only human, after all.
But there are things you can do to recognise and, more importantly, rectify faltering trust before it’s too late.
Here are some warning signs to look for in your business if you want to avoid losing clients or gaining a bad reputation.
1. Your own house is not in order
You’re probably familiar with the expression ‘the plumber with a leaky tap’. It’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t apply to your business – even if you aren’t a plumber.
Is there anything your clients pay you to do for them that you don’t get right in your own business?
If you’re an accountant, are the invoices and statements you send your clients 100 percent accurate?
If you’re a graphic designer, is your branding constantly updated and appealing? If you’re an HR consultant are your internal staff management processes best practice?
None of us is perfect, and mistakes happen, but your attitude to your core business activities will reflect the quality your clients expect in the work you do for them.
Would you be happy to put your accounts in the hands of the accountant who sends you inaccurate bills?
2. Your clients see style over substance
A recent survey found the following occupations were rated as ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty by just 25 percent or less of the Australian population: Car Sales; Advertising; Real Estate; Insurance Broking; Stockbroking; Politics; Journalism; Financial Planning.
They’re all seen as jobs that can be lacking in substance – where style and profile is put ahead of providing value to clients.
Are you someone who puts a lot of effort into presentation, branding and profile?
On their own, there’s nothing wrong with putting effort into those areas – but if it’s not matched by a commitment to deliver value for clients then you risk eroding the trust of your clients.
How you present yourself and your business will have less impact than how you behave when it comes to clients’ trust levels.
3. You’ve forgotten who number one is
Without clients, your business doesn’t exist.
There’s no value in what you sell – products or services – unless you have a paying customer.
That’s why the customer is always the most important part of your business.
You may believe this, but do you and all your team act according to your belief?
Look at your business from a client’s perspective.
If you were a client of your business, would you know you were more important than anyone else? Or, would you feel the business has other priorities more important than your own?
Some banks, telcos and retailers are notorious for ignoring the importance of customers and putting their own interests first. You can no doubt think of your own examples.
How far would you trust them to look after you? Be careful you’re not going down the same path.
Is it time to do a ‘trust audit’ of your business?