Monday, January 30, 2012

In _____ we trust?

Trust is on the wane. 

This is probably not a big surprise to you.  Given the economic and social change occurring globally, and the stresses that change induces, a fair amount of dislocation and disconnection is natural.

But it seems deeper than that. Everywhere you turn there seems to be another poll or study showing a dramatic decline in trust and a rise in skepticism.  (Disclaimer: I worked at Edelman back in the 90s.)
The state of trust in the world, or rather the lack of trust in our institutions and leaders, is disturbing.  And certainly not without cause:  the breadth of bad behavior is staggering and seemingly all-encompassing.  Type "list of recent scandals" into Google, and you will relive a cascade of misdeeds by corporate, academic, media, sports and religious institutions and individuals. 

The skepticism and lack of trust is bad for business.  Marketing 101 teaches us that for a business to succeed over the long term, it must be 1) known, 2) liked, and 3) trusted.

But it's not just big business.  Some of the worst offenders are smaller enterprises, the mom and pop operations that should know better, because they need every customer.  We all have stories of local businesses that we don't frequent any more because they changed for the worse and broke a trust that had taken years to build.

Trust is elemental:  it is the basis for a functioning economy (and, of course, society.) Break the bonds of trust with your customers and the consequences are severe.  Just ask Netflix or Bank of America who so badly mishandled strategic initiatives that they had to backtrack in the face of a hostile reaction and loss of business.

Are you building trust, or just going through the customer service motions?

How hard is it for a customer to:
  • Talk to the boss?
  • Return something, no questions asked?
  • Correct a mistake?
  • Buy without feeling accosted? 
  • Give you honest feedback?
Don't know?  You'd better ask before they become someone else's customer.

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