by Tony Vidler
Simply creating trust with a prospective client is the initial hurdle to having them engage in the advice process. To be fair the required level of trust initially is relatively low – can they trust you not to waste their time…can they trust that you really know what you are doing….can you be trusted to work in their interests and not just try to sell them something?
They are just the first trust hurdles. Then we need to have potential clients open up about their financial history, health and family issues, their future dreams and aspirations….all the deeply personal things that they generally don’t really want anybody to know.
It doesn’t happen unless they trust that the professional can help them, and safeguard their interests and information. Every professional knows this of course, and generally has a process which is designed to earn trust incrementally: the prospective client takes small steps in knowledge sharing to begin with, and gradually as they build confidence in the adviser they will reveal more, until ultimately full trust is established.
The process of earning trust can be accelerated. That is, we can get there quicker with prospective clients if we are willing to step out of our own comfort zones.
The particular comfort zone in professional services that must be prepared to step out of is “accepting public criticism“.
I previously discussed the importance of professionals being willing to engage in ratings systems and customer review processes due to the sheer volume of online reviews that customers are checking today, and while having plenty of ratings or reviews certainly matter it is the overall picture created by them in the prospects mind which creates the shortcut to trust.
For instance; in a simple 5-star rating system 87% of consumers will not consider using a business which has less than 3 stars. That is the minimum level required for consideration – which is not the same as ensuring that they WILL consider you. While the overall rating is considered one of the 2 most important by 60% of consumers and the number of reviews available are rated 1st or 2nd in importance by 44%, what is apparent is that the majority of consumers take many factors into account when considering which business to choose.
The recency of the reviews; the interaction by the business with any reviewers,; the general tone of comments and views by consumers and the business all contribute to determining whether a prospective client will decide to place trust in the business. In fact nearly 70% of todays consumers say they will place trust in a business because of this combination of factors.
But here is the clincher: 80% of consumers say they will trust online reviews as much as they would trust personal recommendations IF those reviews are sufficiently recent (which is basically less than 3 months old), and there is a sufficient volume of them, and the overall rating is around 4 out of 5.
Think about the significance of that conclusion for those of us in professional services where establishing trust is the fundamental barrier to full engagement.
Think about the significance of that if you feel that you do not get as many recommendations or referrals as you should, or spend too much time trying to establish basic levels of trust and rapport during initial interviews with prospective clients .
80% of consumers will trust online reviews as much as they would personal recommendations…..wow.
So there is a shortcut to establishing trust with prospective clients who have not met you yet or decided to engage with you. The shortcut is to “put yourself out there” and be willing to accept the risk of public criticism in the form of poor reviews for service or expertise, and then actively look to constantly improve clients and prospects perception of you from each and every interaction that you have. Embrace consumer review processes and ratings systems….actually; actively encourage your clients and prospects to use them.
Online ratings & reviews are the shortcut to establishing trust with other like-minded prospective clients as they are increasingly looking online to see what others have said. They are looking for relevancy and frequency of reviews and recommendations. They are looking at the willingness of businesses to accept public comment, and the tone and style with which they interact with reviewers. They are looking for businesses which have built a history and record of positivity which is publicly accessible.
This is the principle of “social proof” in action.
Tap into it and more prospective customers will choose you over the competition.
That’s is worth the risk of some adverse comments or ratings which you could learn and improve from, isn’t it?