Credibility Counts

by Bette Price

   In the aftermath of the Enron/Andersen debacle, few companies have escaped the backlash of suspicion that now permeates the buyers mind. So, while credibility has always been critical to establishing trust and long-term relationships, it has now become paramount. Never in the past decade has the saying, "Actions speak louder than words," been more appropriate. Talking about service, promising follow-through, and pointing out benefits all pale in the reality of demonstrating credibility.
   Demonstrating credibility doesn't have to be complicated, but it does have to be clearly visible. Here are a few ways you can demonstrate that you are a credible person:

Be Timely
  • When your appointment is for 10 a.m., don't show up at ten after with an excuse that the traffic was unusually heavy. Ten o'clock means ten o'clock. Better yet, arrive five or ten minutes early and dem-onstrate that you respect your client's time so much you wouldn't think of being late.
  • If you've promised to have follow-up information sent to the client by the following week, be specific about which day of the week. Be realistic, but be specific. If you believe mailing the information will get it there by the following Thursday, mail it in time to arrive by Tuesday or Wednesday, over-shooting the expected time of arrival. If it means spending the extra money to have the information arrive exactly on time, spend the money and send it overnight--whatever it takes to arrive on time.
  • Return phone messages in a timely manner. Don't let voice mails pile up for hours, let alone days. With today's voice mail systems there is no excuse for not being able to check for messages and return the calls within any one hour period of time. Remember, the early bird gets the worm. Not only will you demonstrate customer service by returning calls timely, you will demonstrate credibility for being attentive to the customers needs.
Be respectful and responsible
  • If your competition speaks unkindly of you and your company, don't stoop to their level. Out-class your competition by refusing to speak unkindly of them.
  • Accept responsibility. If an order didn't ship on time, phrase the information carefully, not placing blame, but by accepting responsibility and providing facts and solutions.
  • When questions arise that you don't have answers to, don't bluff. No one has all the answers. Be honest about what you don't know, and offer to find out. Then do so quickly.
Look Credible
  • Dress professionally. Although popular, casualness has taken a toll. If you expect to be seen as professional it's important to show it by dressing professional. Meet your industry standards, or better yet, shoot a notch above and be a standout.
  • Develop a firm handshake. Men and women alike demonstrate hesitancy with limp, wimpy handshakes. Be aware of etiquette, and when proper, extend your hand first, grasping the client's hand assertively and firmly, yet never aggressively and harshly.
  • Be aware of your posture. Slumped shoulders and a slow-paced saunter convey uncertainty´┐Żeven low self esteem. Shoulders back, an energetic, purposeful stride conveys confidence and credibility.
Tell the truth
  • Admit mistakes. We all make them. It's part of the learning process as long as we don't continue to make the same one's over and over. Confess and give a resolve. Then follow-through to ensure the recovery process.
  • Commit to realistic expectations. When a client asks for something you know cannot be done, don't hedge. If, for example, delivery cannot be met in two weeks, tell the truth, politely, yet firmly, that it will be three weeks. Then do everything necessary to meet the stipulated delivery date.
  • Be honest about your capabilities. If you're not great with details, get a teammate who is detail-oriented to help you. In the end, it's teamwork that really gets the job done and builds overall credibility for you and the company.
Use positive statements
  • "I will," builds credibility much quicker than "I'll try."
  • "I'll check into this right now and call you first thing tomorrow morning," fosters credibility much faster than, "I don't think that will work."
  • "Let me look into an alternative," builds greater trust than "I don't know, I don't work in that area."

   In a world where over-promising and under-delivering has become all too commonplace, a savvy customer looks for the unique characteristics of credibility, and when credibility is demonstrated, a trust is established that builds a bond between you and your client that will be stronger than any momentary deal or cheaper price.