Are Your Customer Relationships Starting to Feel Distant? Are They Slipping Away?

January 11, 2021

  • How do we engage virtually?
  • How do we strengthen relationships in this current COVID state?
  • We are feeling relationships starting to slip… I haven’t seen clients in almost a year.

If you’ve wondered any of these things, you are not alone –

Everyone can learn how to build and strengthen relationships virtually;

It starts by focusing on trust.

The way to profitability for every single type of business in 2021 is by strengthening and building relationships of trust with customers. And this starts inside the organization with you and your colleagues. High trust companies are 2.5 times more likely to experience high revenue growth compared to low trust companies.

Let me share the story of one of my clients, a manufacturing company, who for 20 years enjoyed providing and maintaining equipment for the hospitality industry. They were profitable and had built Trust Equity with their customers all along the way.

In March 2020, COVID-19 forced the closure of restaurants to eat-in guests for 2-3 months. Orders and contracts were cancelled or deferred and product was returned. Their revenue was decimated – decreased by 90%.

Like many of us, they didn’t see this coming. They spent the first few weeks of April taking steps to protect the employees and the company so that all the employees would have a company to work in.

The company understood its customers and their situation. They then started reaching out to customers. In fact, within a week, they spoke with every single customer. They applied the principles of strengthening and protecting relationships of trust... starting with listening with empathy and compassion. They finished 2020 with a small profit – even though their industry was decimated – all remotely, without seeing a single customer in person and with 75% of the team working from home.

Their approach and strategy started with trust.

Companies are a kaleidoscope of shapes, sizes, patterns, and colours. However, one thing every company has in common is that they are all in business to serve a customer. While some situations are more complex than others, it's during these tough times that preserving and strengthening relationships of trust can make a difference for your organization.  

Many believe trust is an ambiguous feeling, an intangible benefit, a vague attribute earned by business owners, leaders and sales professionals with a known track record.

It’s not.

I’ve developed a proprietary framework for building and protecting trust remotely. It is similar to in-person, although, there are distinct differences and unique challenges. However, the same actionable principles based on science and evidence apply. Trust develops over time and builds in incremental steps through principled behaviour, actions and service.

Building trust remotely requires you to think about how you do what you do. It requires you to be more deliberate, intentional and purposeful. Here are 2 tips:

1. Be visible and show up regularly. Don’t let virtual become “out of sight out of mind”. It has been said that 80% of success in life is showing up. This rule applies to developing relationships with customers, colleagues and stakeholders. In a remote environment, you can’t take your presence for granted. Regular meetings, notes, calls, and check-ins are key.

2. Old school approaches, like handwritten notes, cards and telephone calls, still work. A conversation is a quick and effective way to engage virtually. If your customer is open to it, video conference calls work well too. Seeing a face can amplify the emotional connection.

It’s easy to hide behind a text, video, email, chat message or post. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it. With more personal contact comes more emotional connection. The lack of personal interaction is eroding trust.

Increased personalization is a goal for many organizations. With automation, chatbots, AI, and sophisticated CRM systems becoming more prevalent, we can’t lose sight that people trust people. Adding more technology does not build trust. We all enjoy feeling connected. We want companies to know who we are. Overdoing any of these technologies can lead to distrust.

Companies that balance online interaction with personal interaction will win in 2021.

Trust creates extraordinary customer experiences, which is an opportunity to develop loyalty and advocacy. Building a culture of trust where everyone is committed to strengthening relationships with colleagues and customers positions your company for long term success. It is a skill and it can be learned.

I encourage you to send this article to someone who could benefit – this will reinforce your commitment to building trust.