How to Rebuild Trust with Your Customers When You’ve Made a Mistake

Adam Buchanan
7 min readJun 20, 2018
this donut was so good…

Mistakes happen in business.

While we all have pure intentions ( I sure hope you do!) when doing business with customers flubs can happen. The risk in avoiding a mistake and hoping it will magically go away is that customers remember the wiff and not buy from you again.

Customers are like elephants, they remember everything.

It is absolutely critical to rebuild trust quickly and sincerely when you’ve made a mistake in business. Because if you don’t they’ll quickly find someone else to buy from.

They may even pay a higher price from a competitor. There’s a wake up call for you.

In this article I want to walk through how to rebuild trust with your customers. This is a challenge my clients face frequently and it’s an important topic to discuss. If avoided, you can lose revenue and customers quick which can be detrimental to your business.

**If you think this doesn’t effect you and that you’ll never need to think about this. You’re wrong. Whether the mistake happens within your company or an outside force comes and delivers the perception that you’ve done something wrong — you have to be prepared.

As we dive into this process I’ll relate it to a donut shop that recently opened up in the town we currently live in.

Who doesn’t love a donut?

Everyone loves donuts.

Recently a new donut shop opened up in the town we live in. We live in a pretty small town north of Salt Lake City, Utah. Starting a business in this area is both exciting but down right risky.

While our town is growing, you still have to win over the locals so they can do a majority of the marketing for you by delivering an outstanding experience.

About a month ago the donut shop held their grand opening to offer free samples of the donuts to the public.

A few people went and sampled the donuts.

And the reviews came in. They weren’t good.

Locals that tried the donuts hopped on the local community Facebook groups and shared their experiences. Below are the top three trends that came from the feedback.

  • Expensive (even though they were free at the grand opening, ha! They do cost more than other donuts in the area.)
  • Doesn’t taste good
  • No gluten free options

Now remember, to rebuild trust trust has to exist in the first place. If you’re a new business a grand opening should do just that — establish trust.

  1. Product Launches Are the Accelerant For Building Trust

Now you may be in the thick of a crisis right now and we’ll get to that. But if you’re about to launch a new product make sure you follow these steps based on the Marketing Trust framework.

Proximity is the icing on top!

The first pillar of Marketing Trust is proximity. This is the method of building trust with someone by having a 1:1 or personal relationship with them. When you’re launching a product, make sure to get in close with your customers.

Real close.

Let them know you’re there and that you appreciate them helping review your new product.

Ask them how you can help what they are doing.

What could’ve the donut shop done differently? A soft launch.

Weeks before they officially opened their doors, they should’ve been giving those donuts out like candy for people to try! They could have invited an exclusive group of people and the media to come try the donuts.

If their recipe was off, during a soft launch they could’ve realized this and fixed it long before larger groups of people came to try their donut.

Or worse. Paid money for a product that isn’t ready yet.

Honesty is the sprinkles on top of the icing!

When you build a close relationship with your customers and they give you honest feedback you must listen and make change.

If you’re in the thick of a crisis right now and getting a lot of feedback from your customers — you have to be honest with them and yourself. Make the change and improve the experience.

If the donuts didn’t taste great, that could probably be fixed. I’m not a donut expert (I just eat them) but I can imagine that it takes a few times to dial in a new recipe and learn how the equipment works to make a donut awesome.

When you’re launching a product and getting this feedback, change product timelines or pull out all the stops to fix it. This may feel like an expensive delay but it’s far more expensive to ship a bad product especially at a grand opening.

You only get one grand opening. This first impression, especially in a small town — is everything.

Experts make the dough!

The third pillar of Marketing Trust is expertise. If you’re launching a new product you have to prove yourself.

Show your customers that you’re the experts. I don’t care if you’re selling donuts or software. You have to establish your authority.

You can’t build it and expect it people to come. Like my friend Brian Fanzo says, “This isn’t the field of dreams anymore.”.

Launching a donut shop wasn’t enough. Their message can’t just be, “we’re the best donuts in town.” They have to prove themselves. If they do it right then customers will say, “they are the best donuts in town.” Which is far more effective.

2. Listen and Make the Change

Companies don’t have to go very far to find feedback about their product. Through simple listening on social media just about any brand can find what people like and don’t like.

Once you identify what people don’t like, fix it quick. And once it’s fixed — make a big deal about it.

The donut shop in my town really has so many opportunities to get people excited about their donuts.

  • They could still bring in an exclusive group of people for taste testing. Get the feedback and make the change.
  • Research what it would take to bring in gluten free options. Most donut shops don’t offer gluten free options. It would be them in a huge advantage if at least they offered something that is gluten free. In my case, two of my family members are gluten free and so going here as a family is out of the question.
  • Make donuts fun! Place empty donut boxes around town with a note that says, ‘Bring this in for a dozen on us!’ Chances are that would show up on social media and if they get their recipe dialed in — could ultimately win back customers.

If the donut shop in our town decided to do all three of these things or just one, they would then need to make it a big deal. A really big deal.

Imagine if they offered gluten free options. That should be plastered EVERYWHERE. It would also attract people who may have been asking that question but didn’t speak up.

The challenge with feedback is we’re only getting a fraction of what people are really saying and thinking. The people who only eat gluten free drive by a new donut shop and probably think, ‘Just another place I won’t be going’.

But if there was a sign that says, ‘Now offering Gluten Free’? You’ve got a fighting chance to win them over.

3. This is People’s Wallets We’re Talking About

Let’s take a moment and think about a time when facebook and social media didn’t exist.

I know it’s hard.

Think about what it was like before all the likes, pokes, and friending.

Now think about how companies would find out if they were doing a good job or a bad job in their business.

Often companies get really mad when they get a bad review about their product on facebook. They call someone like me and ask how they can remove it and how to ban people off their page.

The truth is, the speed of social is real. It’s here to stay. You can’t avoid it.

What if when you got a negative review on social media you took a minute and gave thanks. Instead of getting upset what if you thought, ‘That feedback is actually really valuable and could save my business a lot of money.’

So often companies take it personal when they receive a negative review.

The customer doesn’t understand. They were so hard to work with. They were so rude to our salesperson. What we were suppose to do in the situation? Don’t they know we’re a local business and that these negative reviews can hurt us? The customer isn’t always right, this time they were totally wrong!

And on and on it goes. I hear this all the time.

When you get negative feedback think back to the Marketing Trust framework.

Proximity — Get connected with the customer as soon as possible. Let them know you got their feedback. Learn more.

Honesty — Once you know what the issue is, be honest and make the change. If you can’t make the change, explain why.

Expertise — After the dust settles offer your expertise in the situation.

While the customer may not be right all the time, it’s their wallet and they’ll be choosing what store it enters every time.

About me: I’m Adam Buchanan and I help outdoor companies grow sales and loyalty by infusing more trust with their audience because I believe trust must exist before a transaction takes place. If you’d like to hop on a free strategy call with me send me an email at You can also connect with me on twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook if you’re into that. You can also sign up for my email at



Adam Buchanan

Marketing and Business Consultant | Public Speaker | Influencer Marketing Strategist | Author | Beekeeper