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Guest Post: Can I Ever Trust You Again?

This week we feature an article by Jeremy Watkin. He shares his experiences with different companies that broke his trust as a customer, as well as ways for companies to repair customer trust. I’ve been thinking a lot about trust lately and its importance when it comes to relationships. Trust is foundational to relationships with […]

This week we feature an article by Jeremy Watkin. He shares his experiences with different companies that broke his trust as a customer, as well as ways for companies to repair customer trust.

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust lately and its importance when it comes to relationships. Trust is foundational to relationships with people — and with companies. Without it, a relationship likely won’t survive. Trust is something that’s consistently earned and is built over time.

Over the past several months, I’ve interacted with three companies who had a chance to regain my trust after previously damaging it. In this article, I’ll share these experiences and then offer some tips to restore customer trust.

The Appliance Repair

A few years ago we purchased a new home, and as a housewarming gift, my parents bought us a fancy new washer and dryer. A year later a water valve broke on the washing machine, causing a continuous slow drip. The machine was just past the warranty period, so we paid a hefty sum for someone to repair it.

A few years later the same water valve broke again. Wondering if I could continue to trust this manufacturer, I contacted them to report the issue. I hoped they would admit that all customers with that washing machine were having the same issue.

They didn’t grant me that satisfaction, but Kyle, the incredibly friendly and thorough customer relations professional sent me the replacement part at no extra charge. And thanks to YouTube, I was able to swap out the part in about ten minutes. While I was impressed by Kyle’s service, I’m nervous that the valve will fail again in another year or two. And can I trust this brand the next time I’m shopping for a major appliance?

The Obstructed Sporting Event

My wife and I thought it would be fun to take our kids to a local sporting event. As the game started, we realized an usher was obstructing our view so we could only see half of the field of play. A family next to me complained, and when the usher refused to move, they angrily left.

Opting for a different approach, I sent a Tweet reporting the issue. Not receiving a response, I later wrote a blog post about the importance of not blocking your customers (literally, in this case!).

Sometime later I received a call and was certain they would finally address my concerns. I was instantly disappointed to learn that it was Kelsey, a salesperson, calling to gauge my interest in purchasing tickets to future games. Why would I pay good money for a bad experience?

After mulling over my response, I shared that blog post with Kelsey to help her understand why I wasn’t interested in purchasing tickets. She sent a kind reply offering to give us free tickets to an upcoming game but wasn’t able to assure me that my experience would be better the next time.

The Auto Recall

I’ve written many blog posts about a certain car manufacturer — none of them positive. On one occasion, I once took the car to a dealer for a warranty repair and they replaced the wrong part.

Another time, a braking component failed. I immediately took the car to a mechanic who waited until after completing the repair to tell me it was covered by a recall. Upon calling the manufacturer’s customer experience team, I waited months for a response only to be informed that I was out of luck because I didn’t have a dealer complete the repair.

More recently, I took the car to the dealer to service a recalled airbag. They informed me that they’d be inspecting the vehicle so I asked for a quote to repair my cracked windshield while they were at it.

Later that day I received the inspection report and chuckled when they quoted more than three thousand dollars worth of repairs. And guess what repair wasn’t included? THE WINDSHIELD! In fact, the windshield passed the inspection with flying colors. Needless to say, no money changed hands that day and I’m pretty sure I’ll never again entrust that company with my business again.

Lessons Learned

As I reflect back on these experiences, I encountered friendly employees at all three companies. And for the most part, they were empowered to act on my behalf. But restoring damaged trust requires a bit more than that. To truly have a chance, try these five things.

  1. Listen – Customers are sharing valuable feedback all the time, in a variety of different places. The sports franchise wasn’t listening on their social media channels but ultimately did listen when I contacted them directly. They should be listening in all channels.
  2. Appreciate – Many customers will walk away when trust is damaged and say nothing. They will choose a different manufacturer the next time they purchase a car, appliance, or something else, and the company will have no clue why. Even the most angry, upset customer is to be appreciated because they have given their time and effort to give you an opportunity to improve.
  3. Empathize, apologize, and make it right – Both the appliance company and the sports franchise did a great job of empowering employees to offer empathetic apologies and make it right.

Note: Many customers will appreciate some form of compensation, but most care significantly more about steps four and five when it comes to restoring trust.

  1. Commit to improve – Someone with the authority to do so needs to share their action plan to address the issue. For example, while I was grateful for free sports tickets, I really wanted the assurance that actions were taken to improve the fan experience going forward. I was also grateful for a replacement washing machine valve, but I longed for the manufacturer to tell me they were going to thoroughly test this potentially defective part.
  2. Improve – Companies cannot earn customer trust back without coupling their words with sustained improvement. This means that the auto manufacturer should be significantly more responsive and attentive when I call them in the future. It also means that if I purchase another washing machine in the future, I should have confidence in knowing that the water valve issue has been addressed by the manufacturer.

Take a moment to think about companies that have damaged your trust. Were any successful in restoring it? Leave a comment below and share what these companies have done to successfully earn and keep your trust.

Jeremy Watkin has more than 19 years of experience as a customer service professional leading high-performing teams in the contact center. Jeremy has been recognized numerous times as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. 

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