This Is Loyalty: Building Trust in a Competitive Marketplace
January 22, 2019 | Filed Under: CommunityLeadershipOperations
In many ways, setting up a new business has never been easier. Previously complex tasks like registering an LLC and fundraising can be accomplished through new online platforms, while potential customers can be reached through a variety of digital marketing campaigns. One thing that hasn’t gotten easier is building customer and employee loyalty. In a fast-paced environment with new businesses springing up every day, it’s hard to differentiate yourself.
Sometimes, the tried and true methods of relationship-building still work the best.
All relationships — and we must always remember that we are building relationships with customers and employees – are based on reciprocity. Each side needs to get value out of the relationship, and a company can only deliver value when it correctly understands its customers needs. Some of these needs are easy to anticipate: they are the problems solved by your product. But while high-quality, reliable products are the basis for any customer relationship, it’s only half of the story.
The other needs are a bit less concrete, but no less important: they include feelings of mutual respect, understanding, and sharing in both victories and defeats with your client. Handling these emotional aspects of a relationship can be a difficult task for the “left-brained”, analytical and logical engineer or introvert. The following strategies and guidelines can help.
1) BE THE FIRST TO ADMIT MISTAKES
Whenever you are developing software for a client or working day-to-day with teammates, honesty is key – especially when you mess up. Owning up to mistakes and taking accountability goes farther than just about anything else in establishing trust. When you discover a significant mistake has been made, notify people as soon as you can. Don’t minimize the problem – people will see right through that – but don’t panic either. Give a sincere apology, but don’t be obsequious, and straightforwardly announce you’re handling the issue.
People understand mistakes happen – as Einstein said, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” But it’s the honest and honorable handling of mistakes that will demonstrate character and make you stand out.
2) LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND AND ALWAYS TALK ABOUT SOLUTIONS
Disputes and disagreements will arise in any relationship. What’s important is resolving them in a productive way that leaves everybody better off than they were before. Though it is easy to take offense, especially when you feel you’re being unfairly criticized, it’s best to listen patiently. As Stephen Covey said in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
When you listen, practice active listening: indicate with eye contact and the occasional head nod that you understand where somebody is coming from, and make sure that you acknowledge their points and statements before responding. Only then should you try to respond. But sometimes, you’ll be on the giving end instead of the receiving end of criticism.
Most of all, it’s important that you don’t come across as attacking the other party. Why? Because when people feel attacked, they get defensive. They put their shields up, retreat into the positions they already had and won’t really take your concerns and ideas into consideration. One way to do this is bringing up your concerns in the form of a question. Instead of saying, “you shouldn’t have done that”, think about saying: “Hey, I noticed that this problem is occurring. Do you have any idea what might have happened or how to fix it?”
This way, they can explain the reasons for their actions – and there is usually more context and justification than you expect! – and start thinking of solutions. The conversation stops being about blame and starts being about ideas. This applies no matter WHERE you are in a professional relationship: manager, teammate, customer or salesperson.
3) RECOGNIZE AND CELEBRATE ALL WINS
Relationships work better when you feel like you share a goal and purpose. This means cultivating with your customers and your team a sense of shared struggle and shared victory. When there’s a problem, empathize with them and help them work through it – they’ll almost always remember it and return the favor. When your company makes a significant achievement, like a product release, let your customers know and share your excitement. When their business does the same, engage with your contacts there enthusiastically.
This applies even more strongly within your organization. Your employees and teammates work hard, and they deserve recognition when they accomplish goals and deliver value. Give them a high five, talk them up to others, and let them know they’re appreciated. Their morale will improve and they’ll be motivated to continue delivering quality work, they will understand your appreciation for them and reciprocate, and this will inspire others in the company to do the same.
Tony Robbins says that progress equals happiness. The truth of this statement has been proven time and time again. If you recognize and celebrate wins, no matter the size, you create an atmosphere of positive energy around you and your teams.
Communication and relationship building does not always come naturally to “technical” people, but it is a skill that can be learned and practiced like anything else. Once these principles are consistently put into action, you should see an increase in productivity and satisfaction among your employees, your customers, and even yourself.
Original article posted Dec. 17, 2017