In business, trust is everything. A lack of credibility, miscommunications, or failure to deliver on your promises - there are multiple reasons a client may become suspicious of you and your intentions. And if you've found yourself in a position where your clients have lost faith, you'll need to turn it around quickly.
If you wish to keep your reputation intact, it's imperative to sort out all outstanding issues, as a case of mistrust has the potential to flourish into unsavoury circumstances far beyond your control. Take control of the situation before it escalates.
Here are a few suggestions for trust building exercises:
Practise Transparency: Be completely upfront and honest about pertinent issues such as capabilities, time management, and expertise. When servicing clients, the golden rule of thumb is to underpromise and overdeliver - not the other way around. Exaggerating your capabilities will be detrimental for both you and your clients for obvious reasons; you will have to punch above your weight to deliver on projects and risk disappointing, perhaps even losing your clients. Direct your clients towards another person within your team who is capable of doing the tasks in question. They will appreciate you for your honesty.
Take Responsibility: Mistakes will be made during the course of your professional engagement - you're only human! Apologise for mishaps committed directly by you and take ownership of unpleasant situations which may have risen due to your actions (or lack of it.) Follow up with a detailed damage control plan explaining your efforts to mitigate said situation and ensure no repeat offenses are committed. Do not be defensive if it is evident you cased the error - no one likes to do business with an individual who cannot admit to their faults.
Respond On Time: Making clients feel ignored is a sure-fire way to lose their trust. Noone likes to be left hanging without an acknowledgment, so respond as quickly as possible. If the response entails addressing a specific issue or undertaking a task, let the client know that you will take a while to revert. Provide them with a reasonable timeline, reassuring them that their queries will be looked into. This is crucial in the case of a crisis, where you will be required to intervene on short-term notice. Inaction or failure to respond in a timely manner might hinder the client's business and subsequently, your working relationship with them.
Have A Conversation: The prolonged tension between you and your client will amount to bad blood, preventing both parties from effectively carrying on their duties. Any bad blood will impede objectivity for you and your clients, creating a precedence for a toxic situation. The only way to resolve this is to sit down and talk. The agenda of the meeting should involve clarifying misconceptions, providing constructive feedback and chalking out plans for the future. Use the session to clear the air between you and your client and mitigate tension. Request another colleague to act as a moderator if you are certain that neither you nor the client will be able to remain neutral.