Customer Service Week has been celebrated annually during the first week in October since 1992. The Customer Service Group sponsors the official Customer Service Week program (Oct. 2 – 6), providing how-to information and inspiration for the thousands of companies across the country acknowledging the importance of providing great service.

This year’s theme, Building Trust™, recognizes the significance of trust in forming strong, productive, and lasting relationships with customers. At Summit Financial Resources, our single-minded focus on client service is the foundation on which we build strong working relationships in order to help companies grow. In observance of this year’s Customer Service Week, we’re sharing some essential strategies for earning your customers’ trust and winning their loyalty for the long-term.

Be Honest

At the risk of stating the obvious, building trust begins and ends with being truthful. Savvy customers and clients know when they are being misled and will respect you more if you are up front, even if it means admitting a mistake or failing to deliver what they want. Leading by example will show your team that honesty is a core value for your company.

Never misrepresent the benefits of your product or service. Give a complete picture, and let the customer decide if it solves their particular challenge. This is essential if you sell or market exclusively online. Don’t try to avoid or hide errors, and address issues directly and explain steps you will take to prevent problems in the future.

If it’s appropriate for your business, encourage your clients or customers to write online reviews. Statistics show that 68% of customers put their trust in customer reviews when they make a purchase. Online opinions are the third most trusted source of product information. It is essential that you respond to the reviews you get, especially if they’re negative. This will publicly demonstrate to customers and prospects that you are transparent and dedicated to addressing their concerns.

Summit Financial Resources sees honesty as a two-way street. Our clients have to be able to rely on us to always have their best interests at heart. Our Relationship Managers are committed to offering unbiased, professional opinions and candid points of view, and this requires our clients to provide them with as much information as possible. By practicing a policy of openness, we’re establishing an environment where our clients can feel comfortable being open with us in return.

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Deliver on Your Promises

Trustworthy brands not only say what they mean, they do what they say. Even the most loyal customers will lose faith in businesses that fail to keep commitments. When a customer is promised a delivery on a certain date, or a promotional offer, or a callback at a certain time, you need to make sure that you and your team consistently follow through. Better yet, surpass their expectations by offering even more than initially promised, such as shipping a product sooner or offering a special discount.

If a customer’s request is unrealistic or you know you can’t fulfill it, it’s far better to tell them than to make empty promises. Holding yourself accountable for your words and actions requires a lot of effort, but in the end the hard work will pay off. Proving to your customers that they can count on you to continually meet or exceed their expectations will build trust and generate repeat business and referrals. According to a recent survey by Concerto Marketing Group, when customers trust a brand, 83% will recommend the company to others and 82% will continue to use the same brand.

Communicate Constantly

We hear it all the time: communication is the key to a successful relationship. Engaging customers through regular and open communication is essential to establishing their trust.

Reach out to satisfied customers through regular surveys to better understand how you can improve your brand and your service, and make sure you act on any valuable feedback you receive. Send post-purchase emails or thank you notes accompanied by a promotional offer to show how much you appreciate their loyalty. It’s equally important to follow up with unhappy customers via phone or email to answer their questions or handle their concerns. Personalizing your communications will position your business as friendly and approachable and make your customers feel valued.

Proactive communication can boost loyalty by saving customers time and effort. This can be as simple as letting them know how to reach your customer service team, when you’re scheduling website maintenance, and if they should expect delivery delays. Staying ahead of the curve can help you manage or eliminate potential obstacles to a positive customer experience.

Provide Stellar Customer Service

Great service is vital to earning a customer’s loyalty. In fact, one study ranked customer service as the most important factor impacting trust. Professional customer service focuses on consistency, responsiveness, timeliness, and the ability to exceed customer expectations. This applies to face-to-face human interaction as well as the technologies used in your customer experience.

When a customer walks into your brick-and-mortar business, it takes only a few seconds for them to form an opinion. This first impression will affect their decision about whether or not to do business with you. Make sure your staff is welcoming and courteous and offers plenty of help and expertise.

The same holds true for your online business. Having an up-to-date, easy-to-navigate website is a must, no matter how small or big your business might be. Not only does this help you communicate and create a sense of camaraderie with present and potential customers, it builds confidence and trust by showing that your business is tech-savvy and serious about providing a positive user experience.

Just as you train your customer service staff to deliver prompt service in person or over the phone, you should monitor your online contact center technologies regularly to make sure they are working properly. Menu choices should reflect any current issues like product recalls or promotional offers. Responding quickly to customers through optimized practices is essential to winning their trust.

There will be times when, despite your best efforts, you or your service staff will be unsuccessful in meeting a customer’s needs or resolving a particular problem. However, showing genuine concern and a willingness to help will go a long way towards establishing your reputation as a brand worthy of their trust.

Summit Financial Resources understands that loyal customers can provide vital feedback, serve as ambassadors for your brand, and generate the revenue to sustain your business and fuel your success. While it doesn’t happen overnight, developing and maintaining client relationships based on mutual trust and respect is essential to creating a win-win for your business and for ours.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.