Trust is important in any relationship and even more important in a virtual business relationship. Earning trust takes time, but here are five steps you can take to foster trust with all your online relationships:
1. Manage Expectations. This is essential. Before entering into a business relationship with anyone, talk about each other’s expectations. How will you both handle deadlines, punctuality and other situations?
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Frequent communication is critical, especially at the beginning of a working relationship. In addition, ongoing communication will go a long way in preventing misunderstandings, confusion, and general discontent in a business partnership.
Also, keep in mind that email is not always the best medium for communication. If you have a problem or question, pick up the phone. In doing this, you will be able pick up on verbal (and some non-verbal) cues by phone that are impossible to decipher in an email.
3. Under promise, over deliver. If you promise a client to have something done by 3pm Friday, get it done by Friday morning or Thursday afternoon. Go that extra mile or add that extra special touch.
On the flip side, if you cannot or will not do a particular project for a client say so and don’t just leave her hanging. If you can, offer recommendations or resources for the client so that he or she can find someone who can complete her project.
4. Keep your word. It should go without saying, however, be honest. Honor your promises. Do not lie. And by all means, do not say you are proficient or an expert at something if, in fact, you aren’t.
I knew someone who lied about his skill level and it turned into a disaster. This person promised a client that he was an expert in using a software program, when in reality, he didn’t have a clue. He screwed up the project he was working on for the client, he angered (and lost) the client, and effectively discredited his business, especially in the eyes of the client.
The best thing to do if you aren’t an expert at a specific skill, but willing to give it a try, is to be upfront and let the client know. Let her choose whether or not if she wants you to give the project a try.
5. Take responsibility. Take responsibility for the work you do. If you make a mistake, own up to it. After all, mistakes happen and no one’s perfect. Do not play the blame game. Admit your error and do whatever you can to fix the problem.
I made a doozy of a mistake when I worked in an insurance agency years ago. I had taken a payment from a client and stuck it in his folder so I can answer the phone. I got busy, put the file away, and forgot to mail the payment. Even worse, I didn’t remember anything about the payment until a few weeks later when I got a call from the client wanting to know why his policy canceled!
It took several phone calls to the insurance company and showing proof of payment (along with copies of the receipts from the day before and after), before I was able to get the policy reinstated. Obviously, the client was very unhappy with what happened; but, because I took responsibility for my action and did what needed to be done to fix it, a bad situation didn’t get worse!
I know for a fact that if I had lied or tried to blame one of the other account representatives, it would have made the situation much worse. Not only that, it would have discredited my professionalism and certainly would have soured the working relationship with this client going forward. He might even have taken his policies elsewhere. Thankfully, he didn’t, and it all worked out.
One more thing:
6. Be real. Be your authentic self. Who you are is as important – no, more important – than what you do. Being “fake” or trying to be someone you aren’t does not serve you nor your clients well. Besides, being fake can be sniffed out a mile away. If you have ever dealt with certain sales people you know what I mean!
Now it’s your turn. What are your best tips for building trust in a virtual (or real world) relationship? DO share in the comments.