On the internet, we KNOW that everything (bad) lasts forever… we all get this, even if we deny it (which is usually right after a few late-night drunkposts). I’ve recently learned that the internet is not alone in this characteristic of unfortunate recall.
My tale has a few simple highlights: I was arrested. It was for trespassing. I was not convicted. I am not a stalker. (and, before you ask… it did not involve Governor Schwarzenegger’s daughter – and I patently reject those rumors.) As a result, I spent a freezing cold night in a Big Bear, California jail… in 1971!
So, why am I telling you this now (and why should anyone care)? Because, having not thought of it for 30+ years, and even though I didn’t do anything to “fix” it, I assumed it was lost in the mist of time. I was wrong.
A few years ago, I began the adoption process where my entire background needed to be unraveled for display. I created a bio much more detailed than ANYONE would care to read and filled out 100’s of forms (literally) explaining everything I could remember about my life, so far. Every detail was explored and vetted. Every. Single. One.
Or, so I thought. Trespassing. Really?! After 30 years, it shouldn’t matter, right? Except it did. And, it cost me trust with exactly the people I was trying to build it with. Luckily, they gave me the opportunity to document exactly what happened, and I was able create a clear and credible reason WHY it was no longer valid. Problem solved.
Except it got me thinking… How would I have rebuilt that trust if the records were wrong or misleading, making it look a lot more serious than it was? What happens when a relationship based on trust is put in jeopardy, through little or no fault of your own?
Ever more frequently, companies are losing the trust of their customers through offhanded comments on blogs or forums, often left my anonymous trolls (is that term redundant?) who only wish to gain attention and don’t care how they do it. Sadly, prospects and customers can’t always distinguish the valid from the troll comments, and anything that prompts them to turn away from you is a bad thing – and difficult to recover from.
Here are four ways you can regain the trust you, or your company, may have lost, even if it was though no fault of your own.
1. Say You’re Sorry. Wait – what?! What if you didn’t do anything to apologize for? In fact, it probably doesn’t matter. The idea here is to rebuild trust, not recover it. So, offer an apology. Even if its just for the trouble your customers are experiencing through the ordeal.
2. Tell the Story. Apologies are a good start, and get better with an explanation. Describe your point of view on the issue and why you think it may have happened, in the first place. Do NOT get dismissive or defensive (i.e. explain why the issue is invalid) or high-minded (“I’d never do anything like this, but…”). Instead, try and express the circumstance as you see it, without adding fuel to the fire.
3. Shut Up. Okay, you’ve told your story and apologized, now is the time to just be quiet and let it sink in. You’ve done all you can do and the more you keep at it, the longer it’ll take to go away.
4. Move On. The trust you lost likely took a long time to earn, and its not going to come back overnight. Now, its time to focus your attention back at how your business is actually being run. Treat your customers better than ever, don’t get sucked back into reliving the issues and shake it off. Actions speak louder than words, even if they take longer to hear.
Have you had any trust problems with your business, lately? I’d love to hear them and how you got it back.