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How to Rebuild Trust and Reputation with a Customer


We build our businesses the best we can, providing the best possible service. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to build trust—or to erode it. We pat ourselves on the back for our good intentions and forgive ourselves when things go wrong. But our customers may not be so forgiving. Customers may see the tiniest misstep as a deal-breaker. So how do we rebuild trust once it’s broken?

Step 1: Acknowledge What Went Wrong

Sometimes, you’ll know you’ve screwed up. Maybe you showed up late for a meeting or sent the wrong invoice by mistake. Occasionally, you may hear from your customer that they’re unhappy with your work or your responsiveness. However you become aware of the mistake, you must acknowledge it immediately. This means reaching out to the person immediately and stating or reiterating what didn’t go well or right for them. This also shows that you’re on the same page with them. It’s often great to deliver this acknowledgement with an apology, which brings us to step 2. 

Step 2: Apologize with Empathy

Next, offer a sincere apology for the harm you’ve caused. Now is not the time to explain your intentions or make excuses. You might say, “I’m sorry I was late to our appointment. I understand your time is valuable.” In this step, it’s important to include both an apology (“I’m sorry”) and a statement of empathy (“I understand”). 

But remember, true empathy starts when you listen. Give your customer time to respond. They may tell you it’s not a big deal. Or they may want to let you have it. Listen for the impact that matters to your customer. You might need to say, “I’m hearing that your schedule is especially tight today, and that you’re angry for the delay. I’m truly sorry for making you feel rushed and angry.”  

Step 3: Ask for Permission to Move Forward

Now it’s time to transition to resolution. Ask, “Are you okay with moving forward?” Or ask, “How would you like to move forward?” Open up the conversation for your client to drive the direction of the conversation. Giving them a choice builds trust. Of course, this means you need to be prepared to hear “no.”

Step 4: Offer to Make it Right

Based on the customer’s response, you need to offer to make things right. What action can you take in the moment to reset the relationship? If you were meeting for lunch, for example, you could offer to pick up the tab. If you’ve delivered a product or service that doesn’t meet expectations, try “I want to make this right. May I replace the order at no charge?” Again, give your customer a choice about how to proceed.

Step 5: Explain How You’ll Prevent Repeating the Mistake

Whenever a mistake occurs, look for ways to improve your process. This will prevent you and your staff from repeating the mistake. After all, your apologies won’t mean much if the problem happens repeatedly. Explain how you’ll prevent making the same mistake in the future. For example, “As soon as we leave here, I’m going to update my calendar reminder settings.” 

Step 6: Be Explicit about Wanting Rebuild Trust

Once you’ve put preventive measures in place, follow up with your customer. Let them know that you took their concerns seriously. You can say explicitly, “I want to do everything I can to rebuild trust.” Tell them the exact steps you took to make sure they won’t be inconvenienced again. 

Do You Need to Rebuild Trust with Your Customers?

If you’ve brushed past mistakes under the rug, you may need a little more help to rebuild trust with your customers. Collabo XD can help. With our listening programs, we can uncover your customers’ frustrations. Then, we’ll provide targeted recommendations for setting things right. Reach out for a free consultation and let us help you build a customer-centric business!



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