I’ll Spell It Out
Trust: a relationship of reliance.
Relationship: “…is managing and nurturing a company’s interactions with its customers…The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new customers, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former customers back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and customer service.”
Reliance: “…a system’s ability to maintain its functions in routine circumstances, as well as unexpected circumstances.”
Trust Is To A Relationship Like Glue Is To…
Trust is like an adhesive; it takes time to set and cure. Test a bond too early and the joint can be stressed and fail. But waiting until it cures – has had time to properly mature through its developmental stages – results in a strong bond.
That’s my analogy, and I think it’s really very applicable to business/customer relationships. Maybe even more so given the tenuous state of the global economy, set in motion by big business subterfuge and the banking world’s poor judgment.
Failure To Communicate
Consumers are skeptical of “newspeak,” and miss the personal nature of yesteryear’s account transactions. Consumers are frustrated at the lack of swift and sure recourse (has automation, the IVR, and the form letter taken things too far?). And consumers are outraged at what amounts to the complete and total absence of any application of rational, intelligent discretion when the applicability of policy comes into play (just because GE Money *can* increase a customer’s interest rate by 20% when payment is received one day late doesn’t mean that they *should*).
Hello benevolence. Hello valued customer. Hello accessibility and empowered front-line employees.
The Have And The Have Nots
I believe these “big business” mindsets to be polarizing. The indiscriminate application of sterile policy, the distancing of consumers from the human profile of the brand (emotion drives even the most practical and basic-need purchase decisions; the association of memory and related experience influences brand choice at the onset), and complicating the back-end details to dissuade customers from dispute, return, or issue resolution all work to segregate customers into similar-looking groups that can be managed swiftly and dispassionately.
Dispassion. Wait a minute. Isn’t customer passion – engagement, affinity, loyalty, stewardship – the holy grail of brand marketing? Don’t companies pay for passion, real or feigned? I’m talking about the passion that drives testimonials, product reviews, endorsements, word of mouth, fan-ning, retweeting, forwarding, logo-wearing….So passion is okay provided its the right kind, from the happy customers. The rest can eat cake.
Which Came First, The Chicken…
Circle back around to trust. You can’t be passionate about anything without being vulnerable and vested (hey! we’re talking emotions here!). And you won’t ever willingly be vulnerable without having trust and confidence.
Buzzle.com author Don L. Price says it best:
“Trust is the true differentiating feature for any company in a world of increasingly commodity-like products and services. A relationship, founded on trust, is the only genuinely sustainable competitive advantage a company has.”
When there’s trust, when a brand truly recognizes transparency as an opportunity to get closer to its clients and chooses vulnerability (its mutual, you know) over cover-up, gobblety-gook fine print, and power games, good things happen. Like forgiveness. And an appreciation for respecting its consumers so much that being honest wasn’t really a choice at all. It was simply the obvious next step.
The Moral Of The Story
Your customers have trusted you to make good on their $19.99 or $1,999.99 investment. Don’t screw it up. We’ve already lost too much already. Another disappointment just might jade us.