Trust is hard to define, but we all know when it’s lost. It’s an intangible force that holds our worlds together. But in this ‘new world’ where we’re working remotely and technology is relied on to bridge the physical divide – how do you build trust at a distance?

Brand loyalty is enhanced by client trust, but these relationships need to be strengthened to ensure client retention and referrals. These relationships can enhance your reputation and having a happy client base means you have a myriad of brand ambassadors, at no cost.

So, in a world where remote working and onboarding has become the norm, how do you build trust? A good place to begin is to look at the qualities in people we look for, and what happens when they’re absent:

Reliability and dependability

It's simple: are you true to your word and do you deliver on commitments?

In the legal world, you can't expect every outcome to be favourable, more often than not compromises need to happen. So set expectations and, instead of potentially souring a relationship with false hope, make sure your client understands the realities of a case, even if things do look promising.

Transparency

No one likes the unknown, especially lawyers. Think about how you felt when you noticed the leadership team quietly meeting more often than usual. Hushed meetings usually allow for rumours to spread, which can be difficult to control.  

Have clear policies for all to understand; put your hands up if you make a mistake; announce any changes timeously – people don't like surprises and by keeping clients informed you help them feel assured that you are looking out for their best interests. Most importantly, be generous with your knowledge; your willingness to share will increase their trust in your skill and competency.

Competency

This goes hand-in-hand with sharing knowledge and expertise because if you believe an individual or organisation is not capable of doing what they are supposed to do, you cannot trust them even if their intentions are good.

Your willingness to share your knowledge increases your client’s trust in your skills and competency, and you can open this even further by authoring blog posts and articles and being a third-party expert commentator on topical issues.

Sincerity, authenticity and congruency

We’ve all sensed when someone says something that's not aligned with what they are feeling, and as a result, you probably didn't believe or buy-in to what was said.

You cannot hide your true feelings or contradictions; we can all quickly pick up a lack of sincerity or congruency, so you have to be sincere and authentically communicate to build trust.

Fairness

Trust cannot grow in a relationship where it’s all about one person, and this goes back to authenticity: you cannot say you want to listen without giving another party the chance to speak.

To be fair, truly listen. Effective listening is fundamental to success, and it's hard to be great or trusted without it.

Openness and vulnerability

Someone who is ‘never wrong’, never gets the truth from others. It also makes people feel uncomfortable to disagree with them or share their thoughts. 

A shared exchange of openness and vulnerability sparks co-operation and trust; and is less about the sender but the receiver, you can visibly see people relax, connect and start to trust in a ‘vulnerability loop’. A word of warning though, you can’t plan this, you have to be open and let it unfold spontaneously otherwise it can come across as inauthentic.

Working on these attributes isn't a one-off, trust needs to be built and then maintained. We've all experienced a loss of trust and its primarily due to the dissipating of one of the above points.

Trust isn’t static, it ebbs and flows and can be lost, but also regained. It's a delicate balance, a loss of trust can be costly not only on the bottom-line but in terms of wellbeing and workplace happiness. So nurture it.