Customer Trust

How to cultivate customer trust in the early days of your SaaS business

As customers ourselves, we tend to favor products and businesses we have some consumer-feedback signal about. When we are looking to dine out, we look at the ratings of the restaurants we consider, go through the reviews customers have left them, even scour to reviews to get a sense of what’s good on their menu. When walking into a restaurant, we tend to avoid ones that are completely empty. These social signals matter to our psyche.

When choosing a software product, it’s no different - either in the way we go about it, or how our psyche operates. This is why we see customer testimonials and case studies on B2B websites - both products and services. This is the reason why we decide to check out a product we came across a Tweet or a Facebook share about. Social proof. It impacts our decision making process to quite some extent.

And with that comes the Catch-22 conundrum. When you are just starting up your SaaS business, how do you satisfy this psychological need we, as consumers, have of looking for social proof to make ourselves more comfortable with the buying decision. After all, since you have just started, you have no customers, so you have no social proof. At the same time, you need customers to gain social proof, and to gain consumers, you need some sort of social proof (to inculcate the trust). You see the Catch-22 problem now, don’t you?

How do you go about solving this problem?

You can’t solve the problem of not having social proof. Let us understand that, and accept that so that we can move on to solving the challenge we have some control over.

The reason why your customers are looking for social proof is to get more comfortable with the idea of transacting with you, of availing your services, of using your product. Social proof inculcates trust as we have just discussed at length. And yes, you can’t have social proof just yet. But you can take steps to inculcate the trust your customers are looking for.

It is not going to be an easy process, but you can take actions in the right direction. Let us look at some of the steps you can take to cultivate this trust.

1. Customers want to trust businesses, but they are much more open to trusting people.

Most of the time, businesses are faceless entities. And because of that, there is a default distrust customers have for businesses in general. The idea is that business, at the end of the day, will always be more focused on simply making money. This makes it harder for customers to inherently trust businesses.

But your business isn’t exactly a faceless entity operating in the void. It is made up of real people. People who are responsible for the decisions the business makes, the direction it takes. Essentially, there is a human side to your business. And serving that side up will help you gain more trust since people are more open to trusting other people.

Exposing the human side of your business and brand helps significantly in overcoming customer skepticism. This is the reason why you see founders and CEOs sending welcome emails to customers who sign up for their product, or sharing their experiences while setting up the business.

The more human element there is to your brand, the more authenticity and credibility your presence lends to your business. Look at some of the most prominent and prolific indiehackers and makers. Their products are known by them. People associate their products with them, and not the other way around. If they come across as someone making genuine efforts to helping out their audience, that same credibility and audience-friendliness gets automatically lent to the brand(s) they represent.

This is why you see About Us page on many websites. Or, why you see a Teams page. By focusing on the people behind the brand, you are able to tell your brand’s story and origin by sharing stories about yourself. This helps your customers understand you better, laying the foundation for their trust in your business as well.

Unfortunately, you will come across many “About Us” pages where it is just a lot of information they want to pass on. That is the wrong way of going about it. You have to understand the purpose of this page. While the page is about you, it isn’t about you at all. It is all about your customer. What he should know for him to feel connected to you, and by association, your brand.

Just look at a couple of sections of Shopify’s About page, and understand how they are using parts of their story to help sellers feel more comfortable about choosing Shopify as their preferred route to sell online.

customer trust 1

customer trust 2

This not only captures the personal experience the team had which led them to start a platform of their own, it demonstrates their expertise.

“If they needed to build a new platform to sell their snowboards, does that mean the other platforms I have come across aren’t as good or capable enough?”

The moment you are able to plant this question in your target customer’s mind, you are pitting your brand against the status quo, and seeding in the idea of the customer wanting to know more on how you are better than the competition.

Now that Shopify is big enough, they have social proof of their own - which you can see from the claim that they are powering 1.7+ million businesses. But they highlight the origins. 5 people in a coffee shop.

2. Build relationships and trust through content

When in doubt, create valuable content.

:-D

Anyone who has read some of our previous articles would know how strongly I feel about the power of content. They would also know that I am a huge proponent of transparency and offering a no-nonsense view to our audience. So, to detail out this particular point, I’ll use our own example.

Content, as I have said before, is an extremely powerful and potent medium to connect to new users and old friends alike. If someone is just hearing about you for the first time, the content you have been creating for your audience helps them get a sense of what are you all about, and what you intend to do. And you are able to do all this by offering information and insights that are valuable to them, and not by being pushy or salesy.

If you are creating content regularly, it is a good indicator of the fact that you are invested in your business, your industry, and the pain-points that plague your customers the most. All of which are good sign for your customers.

As promised, our own example.

Look at our blog; you will notice a couple of things.

First, I make it a point to add a new article every single day. It is not the easiest thing to do, to be honest. One can do it for a week or two, but after that you slowly start running out of the phase where topic of the day just pops up in your head. So, to make sure that I am pushing out valuable content, and doing so every single day, I have to dedicate a portion of my time in figuring out what can I talk about that would benefit our audience. That means going through countless blogs, doing research on what my audience searches for when they are thinking of growth, leveraging search tools and products etc.

Second, while you would find me talking about our product from time to time (after all, that is our business), every single piece of content I push out remains largely centered around one theme - growth for our customers. As I have mentioned a few times by now, our product - Benne Analytics - is the tool we choose to help our customers achieve faster growth, and do so in a better, more efficient and effortless manner by staying on top of their traffic data, combined with our analysis of that data. But our goal, the vision of the brand remains the same - to help our consumers grow, irrespective of their level of marketing expertise. So, our content doesn’t just focus on web analytics but everything that can contribute to the growth of our customers. That can contribute to the growth of your business.

Your content is an exceptional way to demonstrate your expertise. If your customers see you know what you are talking about, they will come to have more faith and trust in the quality of your products and/or services.

Look at Casper, for example. Yes, they are a mattress company. Yet, their blog isn’t just about mattresses. It is about what mattresses help you do - sleep.

customer trust 3

From helping you sleep with a stuffy nose, to helping you with your snoring, to the effect of anxiety on your sleep - if it is related to how you sleep, Casper talks about it.

customer trust 4

If you truly want your content marketing initiatives to succeed, you need to stay focused on providing high-value, high-quality content consistently, and you need to do it irrespective of whether it results in a direct sale or not.

3. Borrow credibility from others, wherever you can

The most basic example of this is a SSL certificate. Whether you get it from Let’s Encrypt or anywhere else, as long as you have a SSL certificate and that little lock icon in the user’s browser’s address bar, you are conveying to the user that their information is safe, secure and you do value keeping it safe.

customer trust 5

While it may have been optional at one point in time, today your customers more or less expect you to have a secure connection. So while doing this doesn’t automatically want your customers to transact with you, not doing it will definitely exponentially increase their hesitancy in transacting with you.

Today, we, as businesses, are borrowing credibility quite frequently, and at a lot of places. When you use Stripe to process checkouts, you are borrowing the credibility Stripe has in processing transactions, eliminating fraud, and keeping customers’ transactional data safe and secure. When you are using AWS or Google Cloud for hosting your site, you are borrowing their credibility in conveying to your customers that your tech infrastructure is sound and it would be unlikely and extremely rare for you to face issues on this front, or in serving customers at scale.

In our case, we went as far as borrowing the credibility of an established web analytics framework that serves millions of websites worldwide. We took this framework as the foundation of our analytics product, and built our core analytics product as well as the insights module on top of the existing capabilities the framework provided.

4. Offer a trial of the product, and guide your customers throughout the trial

Trials are nothing new. It is the oldest sales methodology in the book. Your car salesman would hand you the keys and ask you to take the car for a spin so that you can can get a sense of how owning that car would feel like. Your product trials are somewhat similar in nature. You are essentially helping a customer take your product for a spin without committing to it.

Your product demo is also a trial of sorts since it helps your customers get a sense of the product without even being in the driver’s seat. So, if you can, do offer a live demo. And if you can’t, at least include screengrabs from the relevant sections of your product throughout your website, instead of using placeholder images.

5. Highlight a no-frills, easy return and refund policy without tricking your customers

Consider a scenario where you are on the fence about committing to a transaction. Sure, you are somewhat sure the product feels nice, but you are not quite there yet where you will whip out your card with a “I gotta have it” mindset.

In such a case, what are some of the things that would help ease your mind? One of the things that would pop in your head would be “no commitment”. If you don’t like the product, you can return it to get your money back. It just became a no-risk transaction for you. Either you love the product, in which case you are getting your money’s worth, or you don’t, in which case you are getting your money back.

The easier and straightforward your return policies are, the more you would be putting your customer at ease. It has another upside too. It exudes the confidence you have in your product. It shows that you are so sure of the value your product will add to your customer’s life and workflow that you are willing to give the money back to any customer who didn’t feel so.

6. Invest time into setting up an amazing customer support infrastructure

Unlike conventional wisdom, I have found customers to be fairly forgiving. Whether it is in their issues to get resolved or in waiting for a feature you promised. But that forgiveness is not granted, it is something you need to earn.

The easiest and the surest way to do that is by having an excellent customer support system.

Quality customer service lets customers know that you prioritize their experience throughout the process - pre-sales, during as well as after. And one of the most crucial aspects of offering a great support is speed.

Who would you trust more, a brand that responds within minutes of you raising a request, or one that takes days? Let speed be your first focus. It won’t always be possible for you to address your customer’s concerns with your first response, but that shouldn’t stop you from responding to the customer’s request so that they know you are on the task.

Bonus tip: I like to follow up with my customers even after the query has been resolved. I would wait for a couple of days, and then will check up on them once. Then once again after a week or two, and so on. If you stay in touch with your customers, you will get a better understanding of how they are using your product, or why they aren’t using it.

Wrappin’ up

To enable transactions, you need to inculcate trust. And customer trust is hardest to earn when you don’t have any customers. But by following these simple-to-implement methodologies, you would be able to make your customers have more confidence in transacting with you.

You have to remember that today your customer is not facing a lack of options. So, to stand out from the competition, you’ll need to connect to your customers. And you’ll need to do so with sincerity and transparency.

As you win your first few sales, you would end up working your way up the reputation ladder, and then you can add social proof to this already strong list of trust building assets.

You may not be able to incorporate all of these on day 1, but implementing just a few would give you a head-start. Oh, and make sure you invest in customer support from day 1. Your customers deserve it! If you’re facing challenges in establishing trust with your customers, hit me up. Together, let’s turn that frown upside down. ;-)

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.

Cheers,

Abhishek

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