I don’t know if it is just me, but every time I’m conducting a transaction with a company, be it in person or online, and they ask me for a piece of personal information (email, zip code, etc.), I get nervous. Why do they need this info? What are they going to do with it? I always assume the worst, like the company is going to sell my information and I’m going to get bombarded with junk mail or sales calls. I imagine my inbox filling up with “special offers” or my cell phone constantly ringing with companies trying to sell me something.Paranoia Blog Photo

Am I paranoid? Well, maybe, but this probably isn’t the place to delve into that.

 

However, my potential psychological disorder does touch upon an interesting dynamic in the world of customer service that isn’t talked about much — trust. As in any relationship, trust is critical to building a strong relationship, and this trust goes both ways.

Most people see customer service as a fairly one-sided relationship — a company or organization giving and giving, and the customer just taking and taking. But, go a little deeper and you’ll discover that customer service is actually a complex two-way relationship. And, just like any relationship, both sides play an important role in growing and maintaining that relationship.

Yes, companies do a lot of giving in this relationship — giving customers the goods and services they need and have come to expect. But, in today’s online world, where anyone can buy anything at anytime from anywhere, companies need to give customers more than just quality products. You need to give the customer exceptional service, being there for the customer 24/7 and providing support whenever your customers have a question or a problem.

And the customer actually gives a lot in this relationship as well.

First, and most obvious, customers give companies their hard-earned money. Next is time. Customers spend time in your stores or on your website or using your services. And, if you’re lucky, they spend time on social media sites talking about their positive experience with you and your brand. Finally (and this is where my paranoia comes into play), customers give you a little bit of personal data — name, address, email address, purchase preferences, etc.

Among all this give and take, there is also a level of trust that is needed before this give and take can even happen.

When customers give you their money, time and personal data, they trust that you will provide quality products. But, they also trust that you will provide exceptional service. They trust that you’ll be there to answer their questions, to help them with a problem and provide them with value for their money. That means providing customers with more than a phone number to call. It means being there for your customers 24/7, using the information you have about them for their benefit, not just yours. That could be through FAQs on your website, a Live Chat, Web Self-Service or via social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

And, in today’s online world where so much personal information is shared, they also trust that you will protect their personal data.

In return for all this, you expect more from your customers. You trust that, if you provide this superior service to your customers, they will give you loyalty…in all its forms. That means return visits, recommendations to friends and family, and now, positive feedback on social media channels.

While not the most visible part of the relationship, this trust exchange between company and customer is truly the key to a fruitful and satisfying relationship.

So, while we haven’t figured out if I’m actually paranoid, we did discover that I don’t have trust issues since I keep handing over my personal information to the companies I do business with. I guess that’s because some companies really do understand who I am and what I want, and provide me with offers and service that are truly personalized. I must be worrying over nothing.

Wait, is that my cell phone ringing? Did my inbox just fill up with emails? Uh, oh!