Use your social media presence to build trust with your customers

If you’ve been beefing up your social media skills, your online presence probably includes “likes,” “tweets,” “pin its,” and more. But a key component of any social media effort needs to include one very important ingredient: trust. Trust can build confidence among your customers and distinguish your company as a “good guy” in the marketplace.

Not only can building trust through social media drive new customers and new sales to your doorstep, it can also attract new employee talent. But it need not be daunting. Here are a few basic rules to get you started.

Be honest by being consistent: Establishing and maintaining an atmosphere of honesty through your social media efforts takes consistent work. Rather than considering honesty as one message that you promote, try to see it as a theme that is woven into every message. At a practical level, this means giving your customers helpful money-saving tips, even if it means they will use your company’s services less.

Once, an HVAC technician I hired to check my furnace explained that I could save money on service calls by staying on top of my furnace filter replacement. He told me to keep track on a calendar and replace them more regularly. In taking his advice, I probably do call him less. However, you can bet that when I need someone, I will call him rather than his lower-priced competitor. His honesty has inspired loyalty. You can do the same through social media. If you offer helpful advice that will save your customers money, they are more likely to call you when they’re ready (or need) to spend.

Don’t exaggerate. Use specifics instead: Years ago, my aunt was married to a smooth-talking man named Jim. Uncle Jim always had a sly smile, a pyramid scheme, and a fantastic story to tell. Unfortunately, even as a child, it didn’t take me long to realize that Uncle Jim’s stories weren’t as factual as he made them out to be. The problem was, he spoke in general terms. Something was either “just around the corner” or “a good hour” away, and I knew to be skeptical. Your customers will also be skeptical if you exaggerate rather than use specific facts. Tell your customers the complete story and they’ll be more likely to believe what you say.

Be responsive: When people post or respond to you, they will expect a response, and they’re likely to expect it immediately. It’s important to acknowledge feedback from customers – whether it’s good, bad, or ugly – right away. All feedback should prompt a courteous, professional response like “Thanks for your positive feedback. It’s always nice to know when we are doing a great job” or “Thanks for your feedback. It’s important that we know how we can improve our service to you.” No one wants to think his or her comments fall on deaf ears. Being responsive earns trust.

 

Be transparent: There’s nothing more frustrating than not understanding the company with which you’re doing business. We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of trying to find the customer service number to a company or trying to get a “real person” on the phone when we need help. Offering your customers information on who owns your business; where you’re located; what your policies, warranties, and procedures for customer transactions are; and the best way to reach you is key to keeping your customers happy. If something should go awry with a business transaction, they’ll feel comforted knowing what will happen next and whom they can reach for help.

Be patient: Finally, remember that trust takes time to establish. Your efforts today may pay off next week or they may pay off next year. But eventually they will pay off and your business will reap the benefits of your hard work.

Kimberly Hazen is the regional director for the southwest region of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. In her role, she works to advance marketplace trust between buyers and sellers and to promote informed buying decisions.

Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click hereIf you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.