building trust with your customers

How to Build Trust with Your Customers

Becoming a Trusted Advisor

Trust. What IS trust, exactly? The definition you receive will be different depending on who you ask. According to Merriam-Webster, trust is the belief that “something or someone, is reliable, honest, good or effective”. To me, trust is also having confidence in another’s actions or words and that they have strong integrity. Trust within your organization is paramount in achieving success of not only the company, but also the organization’s employees. 

Trust is not cut-and-dry. Trust is, in fact, contextual in nature. For example, you may trust your IT Systems Administrator to get rid of that virus on your computer, but you would not trust him or her to diagnose an illness or disease if you feel sick. You would trust your medical professional for that!

So then what is a "trusted advisor"? If you become the Trusted Advisor for a client, it means you have built a relationship where they trust your judgment and know that you will act in their best interest. You have the expertise, you understand their problem, and you can solve them using your expertise. If you are the Trusted Advisor, then they trust that you will not only get the job done in the most efficient and effective manner possible, but you will do so in the best interest of them and/or their organization. 

So how do you become a Trusted Advisor? People predict how much they can trust us and then they adjust their interactions with us based upon these predictions. Here are some predictors of trust which others use to determine their level of trust in you and builds the Trusted Advisor relationship:
  • Being reliable
  • Being competent
  • Having the necessary experience
  • Being open and honest
  • Having the expertise to solve their problem
  • Having integrity
  • Being consistent in behaviors and upholding values

Here is a challenge for you. Ask yourself the above seven items in question form. Base them on a client relationship which you feel you are or should be the trusted advisor. Do you pass the “test”? Are you sure?

In addition to the above items, having a strong balance of self-interest, concern, and interest in others produces trust. The best thing you can do for yourself is to take a step back, and evaluate yourself objectively- be realistic and self-aware of your interactions with others. You may be diminishing your trust relationships without even knowing it! Consider the formula below. This is the trust formula. It may seem silly, but its results are the cold, hard truth. 

The Trusted Advisor Test

Competence + Relationship/Self Interest = Trust. Here are some other questions to ask yourself to gauge whether you are building relationships of trust, or if you are actually building barriers with your words and actions.
  • Can you listen to others without interrupting them during a conversation?
  • Do you make the conversation about them, or do you make it about you?
  • Do you say fillers such as, “Uhhh…”, “Ummmm…” or say “I don’t know”, or respond in a context that poses a question vs. being confident and precise?
  • Do you use qualifiers such as “This may be stupid, but…..”?
  • In face- to- face meetings, do you look down or around the room while speaking vs. making eye contact?
  • When emails exude stress or confusion on the other end, do you pick up the phone to talk to the other party? 

Improve your Virtual "Trustiness"

Gaining the trust of colleagues in addition to clients is the key to having successful relationships within your organization. Teams are more productive when they trust each other because they are able to collaborate more fruitfully and trust that their teammates will complete tasks diligently and successfully. This is especially true when there are virtual teams and, for Bit-Wizards, the majority of our client relationships are virtual. Gaining the trust of others who are not physically present is even more difficult. To build and maintain the trust of virtual teams and clients, communication is key. Here are some tips for building virtual relationships:
  • Standardize procedures of communication. This means, for example, having a standard conference line which does not change.
  • Clarify each goal and the expectation the colleague or client must fulfill.
  • Create a virtual space for sharing documents; both social and project based. This could be a SharePoint site or even a Microsoft OneDrive which is one application within Office 365.
  • Communicate on a variety of topics. It is ok to have some personal chatter; for example, talk about your common interests in pets or children. This builds camaraderie and rapport.
  • Do what you say you will do. Your teams and clients need to trust that if they give you a task or a goal, you are going to make it happen.

How We Build Trust

At Bit-Wizards, clients and potential clients trust our Wizards to provide them with solutions to their technological problems. We work diligently to gain client trust through communication, training and truly caring about our clients and their success. Because we sell expertise rather than selling products or services, Bit-Wizards understands how important gaining this trust is and we do not take it for granted. Every Wizard receives training to tap into and build their skills to become a Trusted Advisor for our clients.

As one aspect of this training, I challenged each of our employees at Bit-Wizards to keep this 50 Ways to Lose Trust and Credibility list from Frank Sonnenberg Online at their desk after highlighting 5-7 items they are guilty of doing. Bringing these to the forefront makes them more self-aware and seeing this at their desk every day challenges them to build stronger relationships with clients, colleagues and even their own families and friends. And now I challenge you to do the same. It is a simple exercise that can change the nature of your relationships- both business and personal.

I leave you with this to ponder….

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ~Stephen Covey
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Mallory M. Whalen, Director of Human Resources
Mallory M. Whalen

Director of Human Resources

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