How to generate trust and customer loyalty when your industry is plagued by distrust


If the industry your business operates in regularly appears on the ‘least trusted’ list, how do you create trust to ensure viability? Without trust, it is difficult to turn a profit, let alone grow your business and build your reputation.

Are you doing enough to actively foster trust, earn a client’s business and engender loyalty? Operating in the trade industry, we have suffered our fair share of distrustful and uncertain clients, but right from the outset we vowed to do our share to turn people’s perceptions around. The result for us and those other businesses that actively work hard at building trust, is increased sales and happy clients.

Much like lawyers and used car salespeople, tradies often meet people who seem unsure of whether or not they can trust that a job will be well done and that they will be charged an honest fee.

This is because in a trade service business, customers do not have the expertise to diagnose and solve the issue. They are in a position of having to take everything we say at face value and are vulnerable to those who would bamboozle them.

The other issue for a service-based business is that value is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s bargain is the next person’s overspend. It’s easy when you compare goods – apples with apples, but a service-based business has many intangible ways to deliver value and these include reliability, responsiveness, assurance, helpfulness, and standing behind your guarantees.

In addition, people will almost always base their experiences on the past, especially where they may have been mucked about, ripped off or disappointed by a tradesperson. The threat that this nightmarish experience will be repeated sits in the back of their mind and it’s then difficult to trust any new tradesperson.

How well is your business trusted?

So, how can your business rise up to the challenge and prove these negative expectations wrong, long before someone becomes a customer? First and foremost, it is critical you actively research to identify areas of concern:

  1. Listen to learn how well trusted your business is, and why or why not. If not, find out what the main concerns people have about your industry and your business.
  2. Take steps to proactively address issues; a) ensure they are valid concerns for your business, b) reassure people that your business can be trusted, c) include proof that concerns won’t be realised because you have standards and processes in place to answer these concerns, and d) prove your credibility including to share the experiences of your happy customers.
  3. Look at your communication to make sure it is clear, consistent, honest, and proactive.
How can trust be actively developed?

To actively develop trust once you have identified areas for concern, you need to put practices in place to address each issue. Certainly, the language you use to talk about your company in your marketing, and the way you speak to prospects and customers, can help develop trust. But it must also be backed up with systematic business practices:

  1. Offer a 100% happiness guarantee. Once a job is complete, touch base with the client to make sure they were happy with the service provided. If a customer isn’t entirely happy, dedicate the time necessary to find out why and if the outcome can be improved – you’d be surprised at how many of these customers can be turned into very happy lifelong customers.
  2. Set up a company manifesto or code of conduct, promising your company will always be reliable, trustworthy and deliver the best value for the customer’s dollar. Our Code, for instance, centres around solving all our customers’ plumbing problems in the most ethical, efficient and effective way possible.
  3. Help potential customers before they even commit to anything. After making their initial enquiry keep the communication lines open either by offering a free e-book or guide that outlines their rights, or information about their specific need or problem.
  4. Take the time to communicate and explain everything. This is particularly important if your industry is one that is often met with fear or apprehension, like the dental industry. Commit to keeping them updated at all stages of the process and do follow through. This can include the little details like appointment reminders, sending a profile through of who will be doing the work for them, a confirmation email outlining what to expect, and talking through photos of problems that need fixing.
  5. Always be clear about the job or the service you are delivering. Provide a summary of recommendations and ask for feedback regarding their experience:
    • Offer options to customers, and let them know the pros and cons of all options. This empowers the customer to make informed decisions based on your honesty and transparency.
    • Asking for feedback helps reassure the customer that you want them to be happy, not just complete a transaction. And shows that you are willing to make changes or take on suggestions.
    • Invest time and effort into getting reviews so that you have a solid reputation that prospects can see as the first step in helping build trust with them.

Trust is a powerful force that builds loyalty, credibility as well as your business. It also gives you the benefit of the doubt in situations where you want to be understood and believed. So it becomes the difference between customers getting you to reluctantly do the bare minimum service, and customers who trust you to do a good job of multiple issues. It is also the difference between customers referring you to their contacts, and returning as repeat business in the future.

Customers who are confident in your business and the service you provide, will also provide reviews and positive feedback, and with the prevalence of review sites and large social media referral networks and directory listings, this helps grow our business through new customers who believe they can trust enough to give the business a chance.

Our simpler definition of trust in a service business needs to be extended to take into account that trust must be built, and it must be earned over a span of time by listening, talking, asking questions and ‘walking the talk’. Employees, suppliers and customers eventually reach a decision point in a relationship when they decide where to place their trust and with whom. And that needs to be your business.


About the author

Laney Clancy is the Marketing and Finance Manager at Pipe Perfection Plumbers in Sydney. She is married to Darren, the owner of the business, which has a team that includes specialist Enviroplumbers and more, servicing the Inner West and Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.