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This articles come from The Five Steps to Building a Successful Business course. This course is the product of working with small businesses for twenty-plus years and asking a simple question: Why do certain businesses succeed while so many struggle and ultimately fail? The Five Steps to Building a Successful Business will teach you how to successfully start and grow a business, or turn a struggling enterprise around. Check out more articles from the Five Steps series.

The three levels of trust are covered in pillar two of the Five Pillars of Business Success, The Customer Experience. Trust is vital to achieving business success. Without a minimum level of trust, customers will not return. Obtaining meaningful referrals from customers, on the other hand, requires a significantly higher level of trust than most owners create. The Five C’s of the Customer Experience; 1) the customer, 2) competence, 3) character, 4) consistency and 5) communication, work together to help customers quickly move through the three levels of trust. The three levels of trust are:

  1. Competence
  2. Character, and
  3. Care/Concern

In this video, The Trust Bucket, we illustrate how customers move through the three levels or trust. Here’s a quick overview of each level:

Competence: Competence is the first level of trust. At the competence level, the customer believes you can do the job. Your product works. Your service is adequate. But, the customer knows little else about you. At this level of trust, your relationship is primarily transactional. The customer may return until given a reason not to but is highly unlikely to refer you to others.

Character: Character is the second level of trust. The Customer knows you can do the job but now they also believe you and your business are basically good, upstanding members of the community. If it were a personal relationship (which it is) it would be that of a friendly acquaintance. You might chat on the train about the game last night but you’re not hanging out watching the game together. Referrals at the character level of trust are tentative. If asked about the product or service your business provides, they might say you do a good job but they’re not willing to risk their reputation to urge the friend further.

Care/Concern: Care/Concern is the final level of trust and the one we are pursuing. Here the customer knows you can do the job and are an upstanding member of the community. At the Care/Concern stage, they also know something more: that you care about them personally. You have invested in them and the relationship. You have added value to their lives in a way others could (or would) not. The experience you have created is tantamount to forming a meaningful friendship. In the Care/Concern level, customers trust you to take care of them AND those they care about. So much so they will put their reputations on the line and advocate for you and your business. They will go out of their way to help your business grow!

Take Away: All relationships have a trust bucket. Each customer has a trust bucket you must fill to transform them from mere transactional consumers to passionate advocates who will help you grow your business. The purpose of Pillar Two, The Customer Experience is to help you fill each customer’s trust bucket as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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