The worst has happened. A product that took months and months to develop has to be recalled. A database with thousands and thousands of files containing personal information has been breached. The CEO is resigning, the media are relentless, and the customers are distraught.
Or perhaps there has been a breakdown in customer service, and the tarnishing of your company's reputation is spreading like wildfire on social media.
It is a PR nightmare, but eventually you wake up and another day begins. Now it is time to start recovering lost trust.
Communication, Action, and Prevention
The first step in rebuilding customer trust is open, honest communication.
- Tell your customers what happened as soon as possible
- Apologize and own up to any mistakes made without making excuses
- Solicit feedback from your customers on how to move forward (i.e. What would help to restore your trust in our company? How can we make up for the inconvenience/hardship we caused?)
The second step in rebuilding customer trust is to take action.
- Reach out to customers who are affected
- Offer solutions to any existing problems and provide compensation
- Verify that customers are satisfied with solutions and compensation
The third step in rebuilding customer trust is to take precautions moving forward.
- Figure out exactly what happened and why
- Consider what is at risk and how to protect it
- Have a clear plan for what to do if another problem arises
Rebuilding trust can be an emotional process. It is important for customers to feel like they are being heard and taken care of. CustomerTrust.com suggests in their article "Tips for Regaining Customer Trust," that it is best to actually speak with customers who are affected. Businesses need to be compassionate and empathetic towards customers who are afraid that their personal information has been compromised or who are upset that a bad product has put them at risk.
Work together with your employees to move forward. Keep them informed of what is going on, make them aware of any new issues, and allow them some leeway in offering solutions and compensation. When it is time to move forward, remember that trust has been lost. Customers will be skeptical for a while and rebuilding trust takes time.
There is no fix-all perfect solution when it comes to recovering lost trust. It could be that there has been a data breach, maybe there was a product that turned out to be unsafe, or it might be that a promise went unfulfilled. Whatever the issue, customers who are disappointed in or mistrustful of a business do not stay customers for very long. If the worst does happen, start with a mea culpa, move on to fixing the problem, and end with something extra to make up for the trouble. Recovering trust is not easy, but when a business makes the effort, most of the customers will too.