Take time to build trust

Many business owners appreciate customer and employee loyalty, but too often, that loyalty gets taken for granted.

I have seen owners dismiss the concerns of disappointed customers and point instead to their policies without compromise. I have also seen practice leaders put down staff members in front of patients. There are, unfortunately, too many stories of employees who feel undervalued, unappreciated and overlooked by their employers or human resources personnel.

Customer and employee loyalty is a two-way street. When it works, it works well. Loyal patients make more referrals and spend more on average, while engaged staff members are more productive, and create an overall happier culture.

Loyalty, however, requires trust. Whether in personal or professional relationships, trust is vital for growth and longevity. It is the foundation on which we are able to relate to one another, and when it is broken, it causes pain, setbacks and uncertainty.

Take, for example, a loyal customer who voices a concern about the quality of service he received. When that concern is met with empathy and respect, a less than ideal situation can become an opportunity for improving and protecting that customer relationship. By contrast, dismissing the concern or rejecting it outright can create tension, lead to further disappointment, and potentially cost a business owner a valuable customer.

The same is true in employee relationships. In my work as a business consultant, I often hear about how staff members feel unappreciated, or underutilized – which is a missed opportunity for employees and employers alike. This is sometimes the result of not having an opportunity to share their ideas or concerns; sometimes it relates to compensation.

The business reality of customer and employee loyalty is that it is significantly more affordable to invest in these relationships than it is to replace them. Once trust is lost, it is extremely difficult to rebuild.

This doesn’t mean that the customer is always right, or that an employee should get everything she asks for. But both need to be able to trust that the business they frequent or work for values them, and will consistently treat them with kindness and respect.

One of the best ways to establish that kind of trust is to make excellent employee and customer relationships part of your culture. The business that makes this its mission is very different than the one that prioritizes cost-cutting or speed of service. Both of these areas are important to varying degrees, but they don’t necessarily foster the relationships needed to sustain a business. Investing in employees and patients is critical, and is a strategy that makes good business sense in the short term, and over the long run.

In the words of the mission-driven entrepreneur Dhar Mann: “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.” The best way to build it, to avoid breaking it, is through continuous investments in your customer and employee relationships.