by Elaine Fogel

How to Build Trust with Internal Customers


trust sign

We live in a world of distrust. 🙄 Between political upheaval, terrorism, and economic woes, people are in a state of malaise and suspicion.

According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust is in crisis around the world. “The general population’s trust in all four key institutions — business, government, NGOs, and media — has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since Edelman began tracking trust among this segment in 2012.”

In her recent post, Kathryn Beiser advises that even though business fares better than government in the trust department, “if it, too, disappoints, business risks falling victim to the rising tide of dissatisfaction that has impacted government in so many parts of the world.”

The Trust Barometer reveals that no action is more integral to building trust than treating employees well, and employees are also the most credible spokespeople on every aspect of a company’s business.”

So, how do you build trust with internal customers – your employees?

Whether your business or organization has one or a hundred employees, it’s important to honor them, treat them with respect, and turn them into your best brand ambassadors. And, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to accomplish this!

Here are some practical ways you can build trust with employees:


    You can’t earn employees’ trust if you lie, stretch the truth, or gloss over problems. When you’re open and honest with them, they’ll respect you. You’ll begin to gain their confidence.

    Explain the rationale behind organizational decisions in advance. Better yet, whenever possible, enlist employee feedback before making any decisions that affect them. They will appreciate your consideration.

    You can’t earn employees' trust if you lie, stretch the truth, or gloss over problems. Click To Tweet


    Employees who manage external customer relationships are the best information source on your brand reputation. They know what your customers like and dislike about your products, services, or programs.

    Employees are also a major asset in identifying your business’/organization’s strengths and weaknesses. They will often have good ideas for improvement and can help ascertain any new opportunities you may not have previously recognized. When you listen to employees, they will feel valued and stick around longer.

    When you listen to employees, they will feel valued and stick around longer. Click To Tweet


    We can all relate to being on the other end of this issue. Ask yourself how many times a boss or supervisor disappointed you when s/he didn’t respond quickly enough to you. Probably more than you care to remember, right?

    Don’t lose sight of those personal experiences when you are dealing with your employees. Treat them as you would want to be treated.

    The quicker you can respond to a question or resolve an issue, the less chance there is of forgetting about it or letting it slide down your ‘to-do’ list. It also helps prevent problems from festering and turning smaller issues into bigger ones.


    I’ll bet you’ve heard this advice limitless times. The weird thing is that as much as people know this, they don’t always follow it! Yet maintaining a positive attitude at work can make a big difference in your internal customers’ experiences.

    If you come to work edgy, grumpy, or unhappy, it will surely come through to your internal (and external) customers. You may think you’re demonstrating a positive attitude, but your voice inflections and body language may say something else altogether.

    According to Powerful Psychology, “positive emotions are linked with numerous benefits including improved health, well being, longevity, and a greater quality of life. On the flip side anger, anxiety, depression, and worry are related to poor health outcomes.”

    “Our genes are responsible for about 50% of our happiness levels, our actions and attitudes account for 40% or our happiness. So if our choices and attitudes have a significant impact in our happiness, how do we cultivate and maintain a state of positivity and well-being in the workplace?”

    Here’s an excellent video about fostering positivity in your workplace:


    Flexibility is a major key to providing amazing internal customer service. Whenever possible, try saying, “yes” to employees before instinctively replying, “It’s not our policy,” or “Sorry, I can’t do that,” or “That’s not how we do things.”

    Have you ever seen the 1970 film Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson and Karen Black? It has a diner scene where Nicholson’s character (Robert Duprea) wants to order an omelet and toast, but there’s no toast on the menu. The server does not budge on the “no substitutions” policy and Duprea grows more frustrated and angry.

    “I don’t make the rules,” says the waitress.

    Watch how inflexibility causes angst and anger:


    When you recognize and appreciate that your employees have lives outside the workplace, you can anticipate their needs and act on them. For example, let’s say an employee – we’ll call him Harry – is the chief caretaker for his elderly mother. You know that his mother is having surgery next week, so instead of waiting until Harry asks for the day off, you take him aside and let him know that he can have the day off. You also express your concern for her well-being. Now, that’s being a human being.

    This may be easier to achieve in smaller organizations unburdened by strict human resources policies. Regardless, there are many creative ways to anticipate Harry’s needs and show that you care about him and his mother.


    Showing appreciation to your employees is imperative in retaining them and maintaining successful relationships. Demonstrating authentic concern for people and patting them on the back when appropriate are simple and cost so little to do.

    Thank you sticky note

    There are several ways in which you can show appreciation to employees. One option is to use an employee recognition program or platform that gives your business/organization the tools and means to recognize employees.

    According to SHRM, “Employee recognition programs raise employee morale; attract and retain key employees; elevate productivity; increase competitiveness, revenues and profitability; improve quality, safety and customer service; and reduce employee stress, absenteeism and turnover.”

    “Employees not only want good pay and benefits; they also want to be treated fairly, to make a substantial contribution to the organization through their work, and to be valued and appreciated for their efforts. To show appreciation, many employers conduct ongoing recognition programs designed to thank employees for a variety of achievements.”

    SHRM says that recognition programs typically recognize employees’ length-of-service milestones and instances of strong individual or team performance. But many are beginning to focus on other, less traditional areas for recognition. Among them are the following:

    • The ability to manage or champion change.
    • Innovation.
    • Systems improvements.
    • Customer or client retention.
    • Morale-building.
    • Talent acquisition and retention.
    • Market diversification.
    • Technological advances.
    • Significant personal development.
    • Actions that embody the organization’s core values.

As the Edelman study points out:

Without this kind of integrated, people-focused approach, we can expect continued declines in institutional trust and further turmoil in society — neither of which are good for business.”

So, what are YOU doing to build trust with your internal customers?

Beyond Your Logo book coverAdapted from Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most For Small Business Success by Elaine Fogel, ©2015


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