How to Build Trust with Clients

© | Lichtmeister

In this article, you’ll learn about 1) the importance of building trust for your business, 2) a definition of trust, 3) how to build trust and build loyalty, and 4) a short conclusion.


Forging a robust relationship between a customer and a brand will take time, attention, understanding, and investment. In the digital age this often necessitates the sharing of personal and private information. However, as in any relationship the bond that is created can easily be dissolved if trust fails. The failure of handling customer’s data effectively and conscientiously may have a great impact on the trust the customer has invested in the enterprise, therefore, loyalty will be compromised.

Any economic transaction is basically a trust building opportunity between a customer and a commercial entity. By giving monetary value to a service or product, a customer is taking the decision to trust an entity with their money, and so expects something of value in return. If a business provides that expected outcome, then a customer will feel confident in returning to that entity. Trust has been established between the two parties and this also benefits both. However, if an entity disappoints, then it will become very difficult to win back a customer’s trust. A simple transactional confidence between two parties unequivocally determines the degree of their trust based relationship.

If executed correctly, the interaction may turn into a long-term relationship of trust between the parties, therefore each transaction is a specific opportunity to create a lasting relationship which is based upon integrity, and consequentially loyalty, that may positively last for many years to come.


Trust is at the core of a healthy relationship. If trust gets dissolved, we often feel a betrayal, anger or a feeling of being taken for granted.

But what is trust exactly? A dictionary would define it as a belief in the reliability, the truth, or the ability of something or someone.

Belief implies that there is an element of doubt. Trust is usually an instance where we accept as fact, a belief we may have, for which there may be only a partial evidence. Yet absence of evidence, is not evidence of absence. For this very reason there’s a degree of uncertainty and risk is inherent. Whoever or whatever we may be trusting in, will perhaps not always live up to the expectation we are investing.

Trust can be applied to any relationship or to any transaction. Teamwork in sports is just as crucially based on trust. The foundation of Manchester United’s success was always based on trust, confidence, continuity, and these values inculcated in the football club; just as equally the same value system can be applied to any team, commercial entity or of any other type of relationship.

We speak of ‘placing our trust’ in somebody, which illustrates that trust includes an action rather than simply our emotional responses.

Therefore trust is both an emotional and a logical action. Emotionally, it is where we expose our vulnerabilities to others, while trusting or believing that one’s candidness is not taken advantage of.

We literally do feel trust. The emotions we associate with trust include love, friendship, companionship, agreement, comfort, relaxation. There are several different definitions and dimensions regarding trust:

  1. Being in a Trust relationship of any kind is being able, with some degree of certitude, to predict what others will do when transactions or situations occur. If we are surrounded by people we trust, then logically, a safer present and a preferable future will unfold.
  2. Trust is actively making an exchange with another person or enterprise, even though you may have less knowledge of them, or of the thing being offered.
  3. Trust is giving something now with the expectation that the trade will be honoured, repaid, and so on, or in some unspecified way, at some point forward.
  4. Trust is enabling other’s to take advantage of one’s vulnerabilities, but presuming that this will not occur.

It is crucial to learn about trust, how it works or doesn’t work, and how to successfully create it. If one does it well, then others may give you the earth, contrarily if they are betrayed, then they may pursue you to the end of the earth.

Trust can be conceptualized as reliability in transactions. Economics is also keen to quantify trust in monetary terms. The level of correlation between an increase in profit margins and a decrease in transactional costs, are used as indicators of the economic value of trust.

Four Trust Basics

When looking at building, or restoring trust in an organization, or with staff, and clients or customers, there are four central points to be aware of and they are:

ABCD: Able. Believable. Connected. Dependable.

Able. This is all about exampling competence to others. Does the leader or staff member understand how to accomplish the job? Can the person create a result? Are skills present that can make things happen, including knowing the organization, while enabling resources and information that will help to accomplish other people’s role and tasks?

Believable. This includes acting with integrity. Enterprises, leaders and so on, have to be honest in their interactions with people, and practically this means creating and abiding by fair practices. Emplpoyees and customers need to feel they are being treated equitably, however, this does not automatically mean that everybody must be treated identically in each circumstance. It does infer that people are to be treated appropriately and justly based upon their individual unique circumstances.

Connected. Indicates the exampling of care and concern for others. This requires a focus on people and the identification of their needs, and that is supported by good communication skills. When a little information is shared, it creates a sense of connection, a bridge and a foundation that can be built upon.

Dependable. Is reliably following through on what one says one is going to do. This means accountability for one’s actions while also being responsive to others’ needs. If something is promised, then it must be followed through. This requires being predictable and organized so that others will see and learn to know that the individual, company or corporate is able to follow up on its promises.

“Self-trust is the first secret of success.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Further Elements of Trust

  • Credibility: Is our expertise level, therefore how we present that expertise determines one’s credibility.
  • Reliability: If one person or process in a collaborative chain regularly misses deadlines or fails at following through, then trust in that person or process is greatly diminished.
  • Intimacy: Intimacy refers to one’s willingness to share appropriate information about things that truly matter. In short, can one speak with candor?
  • Self-Orientation: Undoubtedly, we all are to a degree, self-motivated, however when trust dissolves, then excess self-orientation is usually the cause.
  • Consistent Communication: When there is inconsistency in communication, building trust will be an arduous task. This includes aligning senior management, marketing strategies as well as customer service agents in their interactions with clients.
  • Integrity: Integrity is based solely on any of the decisions and actions we take in life, those decisions and one’s behaviour reflect what we stand for, and thus who we are.


How clients and consumers perceive trust:

  • As a safety measure: In any situation of perceived vulnerability or risk-taking, trust plays the role of the safety valve, assisting a customer in making a decision by reducing uncertainty and gamble. Trust is a crucial decision factor for customers of service organizations – for there may be insecurity about the long time horizon of delivery, and also the inability to test a service before consumption. Thus, with a service brand it becomes harder to deliver trust, because one does not get either the instant disillusion or pleasure that a meal or a movie will give… particularly if it’s pensions or long term savings. There are many intangibles that one can be living with for many years, only to eventually find that one is completely disappointed, that is a very difficult trust issue.
  • It takes time: Trust unfolds in stages or phases. The experience of a customer is like a journey that is undertaken via both direct or lived experience, and also via indirect, vicarious experiences of others that are relayed through word-of-mouth, customer feedback or the overall reputation of a brand, which can of course – change! Subsequently, trust must be viewed as a continuing unfoldment, underpinned by positive evaluations of previous experiences that are shared between customers – or shattered by the negative.
  • Is a mixture of rational and emotional bond: Trust is constructed from both rational and emotional responses. Rational trust means the willingness of a customer to rely on a service provider’s reliability and competence. The emotional trust of a customer is a confidence that unfolds from their feelings and is generated by the level of care and concern a company or service provider demonstrates. Some 80% of the time people do not make rational decisions.
    • Via a rational process a customer evaluates an organization’s ability and intention to keep their promise.
    • Via an emotional process, a customer assesses a company as per the characteristics and qualities, as well as concern and care shown to the customer. Evaluation also is decided by the willingness of the company to compromise, and thus behave beyond a purely profit motive. The employees show care for the customer.
  • Is founded upon credibility, integrity, and empathy: Trust should be perceived as being comprised of those three complementary dimensions. Competence, or credibility is ‘rational trust’. Integrity, or honesty, and Empathy, or benevolence, are perceived as being more ‘emotional trust’.


What drives trust?

Two main factors of trust are emotions and rationality. These are dependent upon a customer’s interaction and experience with:

1) Management Policies

Customers appreciate practices and policies that are customer focused and biased to a customer’s best interest.

  • Hearing and responding to customer feedback.
  • Emphasizing ethics and transparency, such as “adhering to the higher levels of commercial ethics for all transactions”
  • Provide solutions and tender apologies when something goes wrong.
  • Customer trust evolves from faith in management policies like statements, principles, values, regulations, contracts, and guarantees – which comprise the “architecture of favorable conditions, whereby customers feel assured, safe, and confident regarding the prospect of depending on a business”

2) Marketing and sales employees

  • Provide ‘customer care’ and the sense of being ‘looked after’.
  • Put customers first and above the company’s own profit.
  • Make the customer feel valued.
  • Do what the company says that it will do.
  • Offer the existing customer base the same benefits as new customers.
  • “I wish they would offer a little more of a personalized service… unless there is a problem then I don’t hear personally from my agent.”

3) Trust in self service areas of a company such as ATMs

  • The ATM is a critical customer touch point for banks, it is probably as much a part of the customer experience as is the bank branch itself.
  • Other self-operate and serve terminals such as an airline check-in device, which may use a passenger credit card as its authentication screen, also needs a high level of security to protect the customer details.  As the self-service use increases, higher value transactions will probably follow. The industry need ensure that it prepares for this in order to comprehensively future-proof investment in self-service technology while continuing to retain their consumer confidence, or not.

4) Trust in marketing communications

Relationship marketing involves establishing easier two-way communications between a customers and a business, tracking the customer’s activities while offering customized information to the customer, based upon those activities.

  • The emergence of a plethora of new communication channels, including social media, and the recent emphasis on transparency, have presented new challenges for communications and marketing professionals… address the challenges presented by new marketing communications strategies, messaging, and vehicles.
  • With an abundance of web information and burgeoning use of social media, consumers expect to have an easy, tailored access to information regarding a brand and even the opportunity to influence a product or service via social media posts or online reviews.

Loyalty marketing will continue to unfold as ever more smart technology uses instant-time behavioral data, as well as deep customer insights which will deliver to marketers even more rapid, and more intuitive results.

Yet, as it does this, the art and science of that which creates loyalty will become complex. It will move beyond the function of monetary benefit, points rewards, cards and gift schemes to an era where keeping the life-time loyalty of a customer via social media, and data-led insight via a holistic approach to how business engages and offers each individual a positive experience, with the brand, profitably.

5) Past customer experience

  • Intuitively, most customers appreciate and recognize the value of excellent customer experience. Brands that deliver this are the ones customers prefer to interact with — become loyal to, and that are recommended to friends and family.
  • For executives, the value of delivering such customer experience is often a less clear, because it’s hard to quantify. The rationales tends to be driven by a gut feeling that it’s “the right thing to do.” The problem with this is that, whether experience is a priority or not, it simply becomes a battle of opinion.

Delivering a positive experience actually reduces the cost of serving customers from previous levels.

Unhappy customers are expensive. For example, they are more likely to return products or require further support.

If an enterprise systematically solves the source of dissatisfaction, then customers are not only more likely to return — but one reduces the amount they overall cost the business to serve them.

‘Customer engagement is the journey, loyalty is the destination.’

Trust-Centered Leadership

One mistake a business may make as it tries to enhance their customer focus is failing to distinguish between customer experience, and customer service.

Customer experience: In its basic form, is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company across a variety of interaction points, during the course of a relationship life cycle; it is the customer’s emotions, feelings, and perception of the brand over the course of these interactions.

Customer service: Is just one of those interactions — it is a single interaction point during the entire journey of the customer with the organization. It is a moment in time versus a lifetime.

Why is comprehending this vital? By focusing on an entire journey as opposed to a single touch point, it is possible to create a better overall experience for a customer and, therefore, for the business.

Otherwise, the relationship is simply one transaction after another, and not a trusted, long-lasting relationship, which is of course, the preferred maximized outcome.

Maximization is an across the board philosophy.

  • Maximize the trust an organization has in its executives.
  • Maximize, across the entire organization – a culture of trust.
  • Maximize the trust of both external and internal customers.

Exampling a trustworthy commercial enterprise of any size, begins long before winning a contract and long after that contract is completed. It requires seven key practices, all with holistic mindsets underpinning the best practices. Which practice will your business be inspired to adopt, starting now?

Ways to building trust

To achieve trust you must be trustworthy.

  • Communicate with your clients:
    • Be honest about your usefulness to the clientYou may not have the right solution at the right price. If so, be honest with the customer, instead of offering what you know will not fully deliver the outcome the customer requires.
    • Be honest about your business and its capabilitiesOrganizations must be straightforward and honest. The key to customer trust via advertising and marketing is honesty and straightforwardness.
    • Promise only what you can deliver Telling a customer a certain solution with specific benefits and features will be given by a specific time, when you know you cannot deliver, is a disaster recipe.
  • Go full on in maintaining a relationship with your client: do whatever it takes to create and maintain your relationship with your client.
  • Give generously to clients: Provide incentives to your clients to stay with you.
  • Offer free giveaways and samples: Give free stuff and discounts to your trusted clients.
  • Be Efficient: Efficiency is essential if you want to have you clients to trust you and your service.
  • Be Transparent: This has two distinct components:
    • Share informationIf you think the customer will be upset when you tell them the bad news, just imagine how much more upset they will be when they find out you knew the bad news three weeks ago and hid it from them.
    • Transparent pricingTransparency is vital for it is one of the theoretical conditions necessary for a free market to be efficient, you can’t do without it.
  • Accept responsibility and make amends ASAP – An apology is an effective way to right a wrong and thus restore the trust required in a relationship. People that admit mistakes are not seen as weak, conversely, they have integrity and trustworthiness.
  • Reward customer loyalty: Create a reward system for returning and loyal customers to encourage them to maintain their relationship with you.
  • Security of consumer data and preferences: Customers like to know that their personal information, preferences and sensitive data is safe with you. Having a top of the line security system helps to encourage trust.
  • Good service: Customers pay businesses to buy products and services and expect value for their money. If a business provides good service to its customers, it goes a long way in encourage trust and loyalty.
  • Customizing of consumer experience: Each customer comes to a business with a unique requirement and have their peculiarity. If a business can customize the experience for its consumers it helps to foster a relationship between the business and the customer.


Trust is a vital commodity in business-customer relationships.

It is most influenced by the customers’ feeling of trust during any interaction with front-line staff; the key here is – get the service right and meet the very basic customer need. Make customers feel ‘looked after’, even customize their experience – deal with one individual where it is relevant and possible. Ensure first rate standards in the front-line employees (of competence, values and ethics), for this is where the reputation for the customer is built or destroyed.

The second influential factor is the service providers’ management policies and practice, and thirdly, a customers’ prior experience – along with reputation and word of mouth.

Admit mistakes, apologize and fix them – this is as important, and ‘human’, rather than an impersonal offer of recompense after an event (although this may also help).

Not everybody wants a continuous relationship. Use event triggers like birth, employment change, marriage, ‘shock’ overdraft and so on, and then example a caring attitude in these moments.

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