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Trust is in short supply these days—and for good reason. Pick up any newspaper or tune in to any news show, and you're likely to hear about organizations or persons who have violated the trust placed in them.

The result? Many prospects and customers are skeptical and scared. Companies need to show them, through both word and deed, that "we always act in the customer's interest."

No doubt: there is no customer relationship management technology that can deliver that message. So what can? Only a customer-centric, trust-building culture.

Online archives are filled with advice on the requirements for making companies more customer-centric: changing organizational structure, rethinking staff accountabilities, revising metrics, etc.

Experience has shown, however, that thinking tactically about customer trust building—early on—can also help firms become more trust-focused, especially during these tough economic times.

In my customer loyalty work, I have coined a customer relationship model that centers on key customer development stages: suspect, prospect, first time customer, repeat customer, client, advocate and lost customer. The same model can be used in identifying specific ways to build, sustain and, when necessary, regain customer trust.

Consider these examples.

Turning Qualified Prospects Into First-Time Customers

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image of Jill Griffin

Jill Griffin is an executive trainer (jillgriffin.net) and author.