During my time in Las Vegas at the PFRE Conference, I had an interesting chat with a few colleagues about the three-part series of articles I posted recently on customer service called: The Customer You Want (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). We had a great conversation about what factors were most involved in establishing a long-term relationship. So based on that chat, I thought it would be fun to add a Part 4 to the series to cover this.
Research shows that two of the cornerstones of any great relationship, whether it be with a spouse/partner, a best friend, or a client, are mutual respect and trust. I know that many will chime in about the importance of things like communication and attentiveness and a good sense of humor, etc. (and I certainly agree) but it’s really hard to have these things when mutual respect and trust is missing. Given that the notion of “long-term” was a key piece of our conversation, to my mind, the key one is trust. I think that while mutual respect is extremely important to establishing a great relationship (especially in the early days), to truly entrench the relationship over time, trust is key.
A few years ago, to help me in my work with senior corporate leaders, I got certified to deliver materials related to Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s "Speed of Trust". I’d like to share what Dr. Covey believes are the 13 behaviors that, when repeated consistently over time, will foster high levels of trust:
- Talk straight. Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand. Use simple language.
- Demonstrate respect. Show you care. Respect the dignity of every person and every role. Show kindness frequently.
- Create transparency. Tell the truth in a way people can verify for themselves. Declare your intent. Err on the side of disclosure.
- Right wrongs. Make things right. Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible. Demonstrate humility.
- Show loyalty. Give credit to others and speak about people as if they were present. Represent others who aren't there to speak for themselves.
- Deliver results. Establish a track record of results. Accomplish what you've been hired to do. Be on time and within budget. Don't make excuses for not delivering.
- Get better. Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities and be a constant learner. Develop feedback systems, both formal and informal. Act upon the feedback you receive.
- Confront reality. Take issues head-on; even the "undiscussables". Address the tough stuff directly. Confront issues before they turn into major problems.
- Clarify expectations. Help the client to understand exactly what you will do for him or her. Don't assume that expectations are clear or shared. Once established, don't violate expectations--instead renegotiate them if needed.
- Practice accountability. Hold yourself accountable first. Hold others accountable second. Don't blame others or point fingers when things go wrong.
- Listen first. Listen before you speak. Understand. Diagnose. Don’t rush to judgment. Find out what the most important behaviors are to the people you're working with. Don't assume you know what matters most to others.
- Keep commitments. Do what you say you will do. Understand that implicit commitments are still commitments and you must keep them at all costs. Don't break confidences. Don't attempt to “PR” your way out of a commitment you've broken.
- Extend Trust. Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend smart trust to others based on the situation, risk, and credibility of the people involved. Don't withhold trust because there is risk involved.
At this point, I'm guessing you're probably thinking that all of these points are common sense--and if you're thinking that, you're right! But in a fast-paced world that often leaves us feeling frustrated, tired, and drained, common sense can easily go out the window. In any case, I hope this series of articles on customer service has been helpful.
Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.