Georges and Guenzi's Customer Trust Model
Increasing Customer Loyalty With Trust
Do you know what it takes to build trusting relationships with your customers?
We can do this through specific actions and behaviors. When we know which of these are most effective, we set the stage for a rewarding, long-term association. So, which behaviors should we focus on, and which must we avoid?
About the Customer Trust Model
Professors Laurent Georges and Paolo Guenzi created the Customer Trust Model and published it in their 2008 paper, "Interpersonal Trust in Commercial Relationships: Antecedents and Consequences of Customer Trust in the Salesperson."
The model highlights four factors that are key for building trust with customers. They are:
- Customer orientation.
- [Avoiding] selling orientation.
Customer orientation, expertise and likability are positive factors – they significantly contribute to strong, long-term relationships with customers. However, selling orientation is a negative factor and it has a harmful effect on trust.
Georges and Guenzi developed the model after studying how salespeople and public-facing employees increased customer loyalty in the financial services industry. Their research confirmed that the more trust we build with customers, the more likely they are to buy from us again and recommend our products and services.
Although the model is aimed at sales professionals and public-facing staff, you can also use it with your "internal customers" – such as your boss and people from other departments – to sell your ideas, and to increase your influence and visibility within your organization.
Applying the Model
Let's look at the four factors in greater detail, and examine how you can use them to build trust with your customers and clients.
Customer orientation is how focused you are on what your customers want. In their research, Georges and Guenzi found that salespeople with this orientation are 86 percent more likely to build trust with their customers.
When you have a strong customer orientation, you have a genuine desire to help your clients make the right decisions. You assess your customers' needs realistically, describe products and services honestly, and avoid manipulative or high-pressure selling tactics.
To strengthen your customer orientation, use the consultative selling approach to identify and meet your customers' requirements, and avoid the "hard sell."
Use empathy to see things from their perspectives, and aim for a "win-win" result during negotiations, so that you protect your relationships.
Expertise relates to your level of knowledge, technical competence and ability. Georges and Guenzi found that customers were 82 percent more likely to trust salespeople when they perceived them as experts.
When you demonstrate a high level of expertise, you make it easier for customers to trust that you're recommending a product or service that meets their needs. You're also more credible, and able to answer their questions and queries with confidence and clarity.
To build expertise, devote time to learning everything you can about your products and those of your competitors. Then look at how you can develop a reputation as an expert. For instance, you could write a blog; speak at relevant events; get featured in newspapers, magazines and journals; or provide useful resources for your customers.
Also, stay up to date with your industry. This might mean connecting with thought leaders through Twitter® and LinkedIn™, and attending events that allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your industry, and your role in it.
Likability is the impression you make with others on a personal level. Georges and Guenzi found that being liked is useful in the early stages of a customer relationship. However, it won't significantly influence a long-term relationship unless the other positive factors are in place.
First, learn how to make a great first impression. Look people in the eye, shake hands firmly, dress professionally, and be authentic. Listen intently to what they have to say, show an interest in their wants and needs, and always be courteous, even when they aren't.
You can also be more likable by disclosing personal information about yourself, by having a positive outlook, and by developing your emotional intelligence, so that you are aware of your own emotions as well as the feelings of those around you.
Focus on making people feel good, too – give sincere praise, show gratitude, and share your knowledge and expertise when others need help.
[Avoiding] Selling Orientation
Selling orientation is a negative factor, which is the opposite of customer orientation. Georges and Guenzi found that salespeople who have a selling orientation are 88 percent less likely to develop a trusting relationship with their customers.
People with this orientation are more interested in "making a sale" than meeting the wants and needs of their customers. They might describe products and services inaccurately, and use manipulative or pressure tactics to get what they want.
Avoid these behaviors and, instead, focus on being customer oriented.
Our article on Yukl and Tracey's Influencers highlights five negative behaviors that you should avoid when you want to influence and persuade others. These are "legitimation," "coalition," "pressure," "ingratiation," and "personal appeals."
Professors Laurent Georges and Paolo Guenzi published the Customer Trust Model in their 2008 paper, "Interpersonal Trust in Commercial Relationships: Antecedents and Consequences of Customer Trust in the Salesperson." The model outlines four factors that are important for building trust with customers. They are:
- Customer orientation.
- Selling orientation.
You can strengthen loyalty and trust by developing customer orientation and expertise, and by being likable.
Avoid adopting a selling orientation, though, as this can damage customer relationships and destroy trust.