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4 Ways to Earn Trust From Prospects and Customers If you want to gain a person's trust, be reliable.

By Karen Mishra Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The first thing your customers will do when evaluating your products and services is decide if they trust you.

Gaining their trust will be hard to do at first, as they won't have much to go on. However, it is possible to show your customers that they can count on you to perform by simply proving to them them that you are reliable.

Answer your phone during the hours you say you will. Be open when you say you will. Get back to a new customer when you say you will. All of these things are simple yet critical ways of showing your customers that they can count on you.

These may seem simple, but too many companies - large and small -- don't seem to care about how they treat customers before they are ever customers. Here are a few ways to show your customers you care.

1. Never leave your customers hanging.

I am considering trading in an old car for a new one. Here in North Carolina, the summers are hot. If you see someone walking on your car lot in the middle of the day, chances are that they are a serious customer. However, when we walked on a lot the other day, it was nearly 30 minutes before anyone walked out of the air conditioned showroom to ask if they could help us. I left. But then I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt (it was a 90-degree day) and tried to get an online quote. It took more than 12 hours to get a response. When I finally did, I told them it was too late. We made other plans.

Don't let a prospect leave without talking to them. Acknowledge them, and make them feel welcome. They may not buy something today, but they will surely be back another time if they feel you made an effort.

Related: How to Earn and Keep a Customer's Trust

2. Always follow up when you say you will.

My insurance company knew that I wanted to make a change to my insurance policy on June 19 because I had discussed it weeks prior. If they wanted to be really proactive, an agent would have called me on that date and told me that the change was in the works. Instead, I had to call them several days later to remind them about this change. When I finally got a hold of them, the insurance company said that they remembered, and they were planning to handle it. I can't read their minds. I don't know what the company is planning; and so, it felt like they had forgotten about us.

Write yourself a note on your calendar to follow up on a specific date with your customer, and call them first. Let them know that you remembered and already have the change in motion. They will appreciate that you cared enough to update them.

Related: 5 Ways to Create a Culture of Trust

3. Don't hesitate to apologize when a problem occurs.

I recently stayed at a new hotel in Ocean City. As I was checking out, I politely informed the front desk about a few things that they might want to fix before the next guest checks in.

Even though we had a stained towel, a leaky shower curtain and a broken bathroom fan, I was very calm and asked if I could speak with the manager. The front desk clerk said he would share it with her and that I could call her later when she got to work.

When I did call her, she said that she never got my message. Her response was perfect. First, she said, "If I had heard these things had happened to you, I would have already called you to apologize." Then, she refunded my entire two-night stay without even asking. All that she asked in return is that we give her another opportunity to deliver in the future.

Related: 5 Obvious-Yet-Underused Ways to Build Trust

4. Help with a smile.

My favorite eyewear place North Carloina, Specs, is always happy to see me, even if I just need my glasses re-adjusted. I don't have to worry about buying a new pair of glasses every year or spending a lot of money when I walk through the door. Every employee has a positive, helpful attitude.

This makes it easy for me to return to this independent eyewear store, and spend extra money to get glasses that I know will look great and fit properly. I trust them to look out for our best interests, whether I'm spending a small amount on eye glass cleaner or a lot on a new set of frames.

Your customers will evaluate whether they can trust you based on your reliability, openness, competence and compassion. Start by being reliable. Be proactive. Take the lead. And let your customers know that you can be counted on. If you can't be reliable for the little things, your customers will never trust you to be reliable for the big things.

Karen Mishra

Marketing Consultant

Karen Mishra teaches marketing at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. She also runs a leadership and marketing consulting firm, Total Trust, in Durham, N.C.

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