5 things you can do to build trust with employees and customers


During periods of uncertainty, whether due to a healthcare crisis, major stock market fluctuation or some other kind of industry upheaval, business owners need to lead from the front. That means being present and visible to your employees and customers as they look for a leader they can trust to guide them through difficult times But how do you build that trust, particularly during such disruption? The answer lies in how you communicate, the information you convey and whether you can form genuine connections with these two groups. Here are five things business owners can do to build trust with your employees and customers.

Building trust with employees

1. Be open and honest

When times are tough, confusion and rumors often run rampant. As a business owner, it’s your job to stomp out misinformation and provide a clear path through the challenges ahead. To do that, you need to be open and honest about the difficulties you’re facing and what it will take (however painful) to make it through. Employees want reliable information, and transparency itself can be reassuring, even if the outlook presented is cloudy or filled with yet more hurdles. Being willing to discuss difficult subjects with your employees shows courage and keeping them informed shows you value and respect them enough to be forthcoming and not sugarcoat things. You don’t have to be brutally honest or divulge every plan being considered, as oversharing can be just as detrimental to operations as a lack of information. But just remember that open and honest communication is the foundation on which trust is built.

2. Create space for camaraderie

Going through difficult times is tough enough as it is. But it is even harder if you have to go through it alone. Many employees crave camaraderie and social contact to help alleviate stress and vent worries and frustrations. That is why it’s important for business leaders to create spaces for these interactions to take place.

Consider organizing group activities, encourage people to share their experiences in a forum or even host a virtual happy hour if getting together in person isn’t an option.  "The trick is not to force the connections, but rather give permission to be creative and see where employees take it,'" states Kate Watson, CEO of Steyer Content on podcast. "What is comes down to, is connections. In times of uncertainty, we want to know we’re not alone." In extreme cases, you could also set up private counseling services so employees have an outlet for their emotions."

In some instances, these spaces should be designed only for employees so they can feel safe airing frustrations without “the bosses” listening in. But at other times it’s important for business owners to actively participate. Showing employees your human side, forming genuine connections and making it clear that you are processing the difficult situation in much the same way they are, will help build trust that you share their concerns. Avoid being a distant figurehead, give employees an opportunity to commiserate and make sure that employees understand you are all in this together.

[Related: Virtual Happy Hours Are The New Way To Go Out: Here’s How To Plan A Great One]

Building trust with customers

3. Give something away for free

Generally, giving things away for free isn’t good business. But during difficult times, it can be a great way to build trust with customers. If many of your customers are dealing with the same kinds of challenges, providing a whitepaper, webinar or whiteboard presentation that can help them navigate those challenges could prove extremely valuable. Sending that kind of content to customers for free shows that you value their business and truly want to help them get through this difficult time. That can go a long way to building trust and can take you from being looked at as just another vendor to becoming a partner they trust to be there for them when they need it most.

4. Go the extra mile for new customers

During times of industry upheaval, business owners should be especially grateful for any new customers. A way to build trust with those customers is to show them just how grateful you are. You don’t want to come off desperate, as if they alone saved your business. But you want to communicate to them how much you appreciate their business and their decision to trust you during such a difficult time.

When on boarding a new client, consider sending them a personalized thank-you note or a gift basket, or check in personally with the client’s point of contact. For B2C businesses, consider offering discounts or bonuses to new customers. Your customers will likely appreciate the involvement of senior leadership and even small gestures can help them feel valued and build loyalty. A good first impression can go a long way in building trust for the engagement ahead.

5. Over communicate

During periods of uncertainty, customers want to understand how the current situation will not only impact your engagement with them, but also how it’s impacting your own company. They want reassurance that you will still be able to deliver on your agreement and are responding appropriately to the current climate. To do this and build the trust that’s required to keep customers happy and engaged, it’s often wise to over communicate. Reach out to customers and keep them updated on everything you’re doing to protect their business and your own. In the same way that transparency is comforting to employees, it can also help build trust in customers that they have a solid, proactive partner who will be there for them now and into the future.

Building trust with employees and customers isn’t something that happens overnight, especially during periods of upheaval. But by prioritizing those relationships and actively working to strengthen those bonds in a productive, respectful way, you can earn their trust and be better positioned to overcome any significant challenges.

Gravity Software

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