It's no secret that Socious runs many of its marketing programs and blog on the HubSpot platform. We use their marketing and sales tools extensively and I've personally been using their platform for over four years. That's why I was especially excited about some of the new features announced at HubSpot's Inbound conference in September.
One feature in particular that caught my eye was the calendar function. It allows you to manage all of your blog posts, email campaigns, and social media postings in one place. This makes scheduling easier so you can make sure all of your messages and content are spaced appropriately and nothing falls through the cracks. In theory, it all sounded great.
Sure enough, I went to use the new calendar function and it did everything it promised to do. Then, I realized I needed to change the date on an item I'd already added to my calendar... and realized I couldn't. As great as the new feature was for scheduling marketing tasks, there was no way to change a date.
This seemed like a pretty significant oversight, so I contacted HubSpot and gave them my feedback. They asked follow-up questions about how I would like the feature to work and promised me they'd work on it.
Now, for many companies, that experience would have caused enough frustration to make me lose interest in their product and possibly go public with my discontent. However, that wasn't the case with my marketing platform. They told me they would work to fix it and I believed them. I can think of a handful of products that I have worked with over the past few years where this would not have been case.
The entire experience made me wonder:
Why do customers trust some companies and not others?
Why did I trust HubSpot to follow through on their promises, but don't give other companies the same leeway? It was trust that made the difference: I trusted them to get it right and am willing to wait until they do.
My example is living proof: when customers trust a company, they're willing to give them grace even when a product performs unsatisfactorily. So, how can other companies cultivate trust with their customers?
The answer? Establish a deliberate customer culture.
What is a customer culture? Just as your company's culture (also known as corporate culture or organizational culture) is a social contract around common values for how a business operates (see Socious's culture code for an example), your organization's customer culture is the set of behavioral patterns and values that guide goals, strategies, and members of your company in how they will treat your customers.
Building trust between your customers and your company starts with the customer culture your company establishes—whether is is purposefully designed or grows organically. This isn't done by just one action, but is actually made up of dozens of different elements. Here are seven that contribute most highly to customer trust:
Every business is ultimately in it for itself, but your customers still need to feel valued. When problems arise, make it very clear that you're doing everything you can to help them figure out a solution. By being as helpful as possible and clearly communicating that you understand their needs, your customers will have faith in your continued commitment to their interests, as well as your ability to fix their problems.
If you say you're going to do something, make sure you eventually do it. Following through on promises is the number one action that builds trust. When your customers have past interactions with positive outcomes to refer back to, they'll be more patient when future issues occur.
Your customers will be more likely to stick with you when they feel like they know who you are. Being consistent in your actions and messages helps customers feel more comfortable when changes arise because they know what to expect from your organization.
Consistency helps to establish your overall customer culture. However, this doesn't mean you can't change your mind and make different decisions—it's consistent communication and purpose that makes change easier on your customers.
You never want to leave your customers in the dark about what's going on, especially if change is on the horizon. Get in front of any unintentional rumors, so your customers aren't left wondering if your company forgot about them.
Many of our customers leverage their online customer community to provide easy updates and ongoing customer communication. Your customers can log in and see messages from the executives, ask questions, and learn about important product and service updates in one secure place.
You can't tell your customers everything, but you also don't want them to wonder if you're hiding something from them. Be as transparent as you can and avoid alluding to things that your customers don't know and that you can't tell them. The customer culture you create needs to value transparency if it is going to build trust.
By providing a space where customers can gather and share experiences and reactions, you give them social proof of other happy customers. Branded, private online communities allow customers to connect and see that others might be in the same boat.
When a disgruntled customer sees an example of a fellow customer exercising trust in the company, they are usually more likely to do the same to stay within the social norms implied in the customer community.
Whether it's your content, your product, or your services, it needs to be high quality and awesome. Having satisfied customers is a big factor in building trust. If a customer doesn't like what you're doing, they won't be willing to stick around when times are tough.
Think back to my example: I think Hubspot's platform is a great product that's awesome for growing our business. Because they have a good track record and follow many of the guidelines above, I'm more willing to trust that they will eventually get my issue right.
Unfortunately, trust is typically something you need to have already built by the time you need it. Don't wait until a problem comes up to figure out if your customers trust you. Instead, put in the time to build trust by establishing a customer culture that encourages it.
With the right platforms and processes in place—and the consistency to maintain them—your customers will have faith that your company can meet their needs.