Price is no longer top dog in B2B purchasing decisions — by 2020, customer experience will outrank price as a determining factor when consumers choose a brand.

The upshot of this claim is that trust, not price, is now the most important indicator of the strength of your relationship with your customers. When your customers think of you as a partner invested in their success (rather than just another technology provider), you’ve set your company ahead of the pack.

Annual retention rates and quality awards are good indicators of success with solutions and customer service, but these are only part of the quality picture. The trust you build is the key, and it can’t be measured in percentages of retained customers alone.

Trust is the outcome of a successful relationship where implicit or explicit expectations are consistently met or exceeded. New businesses that focus on building reputations of transparency, stability, and consistency from the outset will reap the benefits for years to come.

Trust drives success

It’s vital for entrepreneurs to put a plan in place to ensure a top-notch customer experience, which will lay a strong foundation for growth. Here are four ways to create a brand experience worthy of trust:

1. Set expectations with third-party accreditation. To your customers and partners, how clear is your company’s purpose? Communicating your purpose or mission is a great start, but bolstering it with third-party certification is a proven way to build credibility and trust. According to a Nielsen study, eight out of 10 customers are more likely to purchase from a brand backed by the Better Business Bureau.

For example, at my company, we set an expectation of transparency and a commitment to sustainability with our B Corp Certification. We care about the impact of our operations on our customers, our local community, and our employees, and we try to integrate these principles into our communications whenever possible.

Be willing to put yourself out there and be appraised by independent objective sources based on what you do, not just what you say.

2. Show customers your values at every opportunity. How well does your customer understand your company’s core values? Do your values align with theirs? Survey your customers to learn how they feel about your company and reveal which values mean the most to them. This can help to clarify objectives, set expectations, and create trust.

It’s also important that your brand values permeate your organization so that everyone who interacts with your customers provides a consistent experience that exemplifies your core values.

Expectations have risen for businesses to be ethically sound, and consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions that support businesses with similar values as their own.

3. Put yourself second. Do you understand what makes your customer’s business successful? Do your customers perceive your product as a solution to their problem? When B2B customers sense that you truly understand and care about their success, the relationship deepens beyond a mere transaction.

Receiving awards from our partners for consistently exceeding their expectations serves as a reminder that the priorities of our customers must also be our priorities.

There is no quick trick to accomplishing any of this; a “customer first” mindset entails consistent action and a firm commitment to incorporating their feedback. Everything you do should be aligned with your purpose, which furthers their success and ultimately reinforces your own.

4. Integrate experience-focused design. We live in an experience economy. Your products and your people work together to deliver an experience, whether you intend to or not.

The experience you deliver is characterized by five components: the stage of consideration, which touchpoint customers are interacting with, your call to action, what they think, and what they’re feeling.

User experience professionals skilled in the delivery of these components against specific customer personas can craft an experience that makes sense to your customer and illuminates your company’s purpose and values. More and more businesses are integrating intentional experience design into all aspects of their customer-facing operations.

When companies deliver on the experience they’ve designed and surpass expectations, trust deepens and B2B relationships are reinforced, which paves the way for growth. It’s not rocket science; it should be common sense to ensure that the relationship stays focused on the customer. After all, just as in your personal life, B2B relationships cannot thrive without trust.