You’ve worked hard building a strong relationship between your business and its customers. They trust that your products and services meet their needs, and more importantly, they trust the people who work for your business.

But what happens when you make a mistake, and that relationship based on trust is put in jeopardy?

Unfortunately, it happens, and it happens quite frequently. Many companies, some with previously stellar reputations, have lost the trust of their customers in the blink of an eye.

An incident that causes consumers to rethink their impressions of your company can be a painful experience, and it can be a difficult one to recover from. But recovering isn’t an impossible feat. Here are five simple steps for regaining trust after your company makes a horrible faux pas.

Apologize. The first step in rebuilding trust seems easy: offer an apology. But be careful: you may only get one chance to say ‘sorry‘ so make sure your apology reads as being heartfelt and genuine. Obviously, it helps when it is.

Explain. Apologies are wonderful, but alone they can hardly make up for a breach of trust. Every good apology includes an explanation. Detail what happened as you see it and why it happened. Do this honestly and it can go a long way towards rebuilding trust that has been lost.

Rectify.
Words without action are meaningless. When you’ve made a mistake that has caused others to lose faith in you, the situation must be rectified if trust is ever to be regained. Generally, rectifying a situation means ‘doing the right thing‘. If there are harmed parties, consider making them whole, even if it’s not required, legally or otherwise.

Remain silent.
After apologizing, explaining and rectifying, it’s usually a good idea to bite your tongue. After all, you’ve done all that you can do and prolonging the negative attention isn’t likely to be to your benefit.

Be patient. Trust is something that takes a long time to earn. We all know that, but when it’s lost very quickly, it’s often convenient to believe that it can be regained quickly as well. Unfortunately, it can’t, so the fifth and final step in rebuilding trust is being patient. Focus on providing a quality product/service, treat your customers well and whatever you do, don’t make the same mistake twice.

By following these steps, it is possible to replenish your ‘trust fund‘. The challenge, of course, is having the wherewithal to keep the faith that while painful, big mistakes don’t have to be fatal.

Photo credit: TerryJohnston via Flickr.