Look outside your industry for ways to build trust

Sometimes you can look outside your industry for ways to set a professional standard and build trust. For instance, I use a professional driver whenever I need a ride to the airport. He’s not from one of the popular ride-sharing services. I call him first because he always delivers exceptional service and a better passenger experience than I can get anywhere else. His car is immaculate, and he’s always dressed in a suit and tie — even at 5 am. He’s exceptionally polite and always arrives a few minutes early. Simply put: He has a higher standard than other drivers and taxi services, and it shows.

High-performing organizations know this matters too. Tesla doesn’t require customers to come to a dealership for repairs. Tesla meets them at their home and makes the repairs and upgrades to the vehicle there. Zappos personally replies to every customer email. During the holidays, Wolferman’s online baked goods sends apology letters to people on your gift list if it knows the shipment will be arriving late. These companies don’t use COVID, supply chain disruptions or worker shortages as an excuse for poor customer service.

When my family and I return home from an international flight, my favorite driver is always waiting at the gate holding a sign with our name on it. It makes me feel important and shows how much he values my business.

Whether providing transportation or professional services, you always want to show up on time, if not early. You always want to dress professionally. You always want to close the loop and make your client (or customer) feel important.

Before you say, “Whoa, I don’t have time to do this for every one of our clients,” consider this: Your hourly rate is probably much higher than my driver’s rate. If he can set a high professional standard, why can’t you?

Our clients know that if they have a 9:30 am phone appointment with me, their phone will be ringing at exactly 9:30 am. Not a minute earlier, not a minute later. Clients always tell me how surprised they are when I call precisely on time — all the time. While it’s nice to get positive feedback from your clients, it’s amazing to me that they’re amazed by such a small gesture of etiquette and punctuality. It just shows you how low the bar has been set these days.

Three simple strategies for building client trust

1. Show up on time. Always call your client at precisely the scheduled time. Not three minutes early and certainly not 10 minutes late. It shows you value their time and that you are a well-organized professional. We all have jam-packed schedules these days and not enough staff to help us. Sorry, that’s not an excuse for being late. Give yourself a bigger cushion between appointments so you have time. Doing so will reduce your stress level tremendously, and you’ll score big points with your clients. They’ll notice that you’re always right on time. Being chronically late reflects poorly on you and your firm, and means you need to get better at time management and prioritization.

2. Dress professionally. I know we all want to be comfortable in this hybrid and work from home era. But suppose someone at your firm is wearing flip flops and sweatpants in the office on a day when one of your best clients is dropping off important documents. How do you think that reflects on you and your firm? Not well, I’m sure. Everyone at your office should always dress as though somebody’s best client is coming down to the office on any given day. More often than not, they are.

3. Make your clients feel welcome and important. When you know your best clients are coming in to see you at the office, make them feel important. Have a TV or an iPad in the lobby that says, “Welcome [Name of client]” on the screen. It takes all of 15 seconds to do, but it will make your clients feel valued. All the ideas I’ve shared with you did not come from a professional seminar I attended. They came from my favorite airport driver. Look outside your industry; whether it’s a waiter going above and beyond, or a driver trying to make your trip to the airport less stressful and more enjoyable, there are plenty of examples of people doing a great job servicing their customers and clients. For more, see my recent article Find your client’s key lime pie.

To paraphrase best-selling novelist Kurt Vonnegut: Notice the little things, “because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

Whether it’s calling your best clients on their birthdays or sending a free courier to their house to pick up important documents, these small gestures show you care about your clients and will separate you from the pack. If you can think of a better way to build client trust, I’d love to hear from you.

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