I believe that strong customer engagement requires the ability to build trust based relationships with customers through delivering on managed expectations. This is basically a lot of words for saying that I believe you need to “walk the talk”. For me the building of the relationship must have its foundation in the trust that I will let the customer know what I intend to do for them and then doing it.
In doing research for this blog post, I came across an interesting description of trust developed by Dr. Duane C Tway http://www.trustdoctorconsulting.com/. In his work on improving organizational management, he describes trust as having three dimensions: The capacity for trust, the perception of competence and the perception of intent.
The capacity of the customer to trust us is something that we can only influence, rather than control. And as most items where influence is required, is built up over time from a history of previous successes. To understand our customer’s capacity for trust requires listening to the viewpoint of our customers. This is why social trends are effective in business because they open a channel for us to listen to our customers. Understanding where our customers are coming from can help us cater for their concerns and help build their ability to trust us.
Competence and the ability to shape the perception of our competence is something we can activity work on. The perception comes out of our outgoing marketing efforts. This blog for example, is my attempt to showcase my capabilities in my field. Companies need to invest in the quality of their products – balancing need to meet a market window with need to build a solid reputation. And is why beta programs are usually only open to our customers that we have strong relationships with and we can be open about beta quality concerns.
Intention stems from open and honest communication with our customers. It is being authentic and clear. Setting the expectation appropriately about what we will be providing to them and when. And having this told as a consistent message across all parts of the organization that deal with the customer. It may mean letting the customer know our limitations. Some of my strongest relationships have been built by being clear about issues and problems, and my capacity to deal with them.
So a reframing of my opening statement, considering this explanation of trust, strong customer engagement comes from understanding our customer’s concerns (their capacity), being clear and open about how we can help them (intention), and then providing a quality product or service (competence).