Today, we live in very challenging times when it comes to public trust towards businesses. The public’s attitude towards business seems to be beveled with skepticism and insecurities regarding the appearance of authenticity and honesty. It would behoove business leaders to become more aware along with increasing their understanding of the importance of public trust and what it means for organizational success. The common denominator between trust and organizational success is the perception of integrity that customers have of your organization, which is synonymous with actions of goodwill.
Consumers are no longer tolerating businesses, who talk-the-talk, but fail to walk-the-walk. Consumers are demanding that businesses stand up for what they believe and advocate for regarding their products and services provided. According to Jon Huntsman Sr., who started a chemical company from scratch, “There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business and life….The difference is character.”
At the consumer level, which is where I am focusing my attention for this article, trust in businesses include two specific factors. Pricing and quality of service. It is safe to say consumers expect better service and/or better products based on pricing. The higher the price, the higher our expectation in the quality of service and the product.
Trust is manifested through the inheritance of integrity, honor, and care by care-givers bestowed on their customers. In a social context, trust is demonstrated in your relationships with your customers and other person(s). Trust is maintained by several actionable pieces, which include “self-trust and relationship trust”. “Self-trust” is the ability to see myself as a trustworthy person. That is, having the belief and confidence in ourselves to provide outstanding service and/or product to our customers. “Relationship trust” is the bond we develop with customers by not over committing and under delivering on our “word” in service to customers. What we say and do is manifested in interpersonal relationships between members of a business and customers, which is based on mutual respect.
In my Customer Service Foundation Wheel, trust is the last characteristic in a sequence of six steps. Trust is a culmination of the previous five steps within the Wheel, which include, the business’ “Introduction, Valuing of Customers, Flexibility, Quality of Giving, and Speed”. How you “Introduce” your business to your customers establishes your customer’s first impression, which is a significant factor in establishing trust between customers and your business. How your business “Valuing Customers” has a lot to do with not only meeting your customers’ needs and expectations for quality products and services but exceeding them. “Flexibility” means having an attitude that produces a “can-do behavior that exceeds the basic interest of your customers. The “Quality of Giving” is the level of care bestowed on customers that is personable, respectful, friendly, courteous and authentic. Then there is “Speed”. As a valued attribute for customer interaction with businesses, a timely response ranked higher than efficiency and professionalism according to the Interactive Intelligence Group’s Customer Experience Survey.
Businesses that thrive and grow today understand the importance of all the characteristics, or steps, leading up to Trust, and how this vital step provides the necessary armor of support that guides and provide business organizations with acute and indispensable insights into the vital importance of building a trusting relationship with customers. There should be no exceptions when it comes to the importance of a trusting relationship between business and its customers. Trust is an essential moral compass that guides effective leadership. If you compromise or negotiates its importance to business success it will eventually harm and deteriorate the very foundation that your business was build on…..Let’s be smarter than that.
Marlin R. Clark, Ph.D.
Owner, Salt and Pepper Communications, LLC
“Customer service is not a goal, it’s an experience”