The complex nature of trust requires that not only must rational requirements be met, but also emotional and psycho-social ones. Even when the quality of a company’s products and services are exceptional, a customer may still hold back trust and likely limit or potentially terminate their purchase relationship with the firm. It’s important to know why.
In our first blog of this series we looked at corporate competence. Now we address corporate ethics. Further blogs in this series provide some critical pointers and a framework to effectively build customer trust.
By corporate character we are referring to two things: corporate ethics and corporate intentions.
Among other things, corporate ethics speaks of honesty, integrity or fairness. We human beings are biologically and neurologically wired to pull back from anything that does not support our personal requirements for honesty, integrity and fairness. If a customer has reason to believe that a product or service provider lacks honesty, integrity or fairness, the customer will feel like pulling back from the relationship and be wary to continue business with the firm. This feeling is a lack of trust. While a customer may not always label it a trust issue, they will simply feel more comfortable doing business elsewhere.
Weak corporate ethics fails to engender trust and temporary lapses in ethics erode if not destroy customer trust. Briefly, in this context:
- Honesty is about telling the truth without concealing information that is helpful for the customer
- Corporate integrity is about a congruency between what a company or brand says and what they do.
- Customer fairness is about not taking advantage of a customer even when the opportunity exists to legally do so.
Do you know how much your customers trust the ethics of your company? If you were to rate your company in terms of honesty, integrity and fairness, how would you score? Employees can be a good barometer of these values. Ask them whether they feel that they are treated with honesty, integrity and fairness in the workplace. If one’s employees don’t perceive a high level of ethics, one’s customers won’t either.
A lack of employee trust in the workplace is a sure sign that a company will have difficulty in building customer trust. A low-trust work environment creates a culture of hesitation (if not resistance) which slows down business, eroding the cornerstone of competence discussed in the first of this blog series. To find out more about building employee trust, consider reading two great books: “Radical Trust” by Joe Healey, and “Building trust at the speed of change” by Edward Marshall.
In low trust environments, employee turnover is significantly higher in contrast to high-trust workplaces. The good news is that while low-trust is severely debilitating, high-trust does not just counter-act that debilitation, but is most conducive to high performance. Trust liberates talent and creates fertile ground for innovation – greatly benefiting the quality of products and services.
Strong ethical leadership and attracting, growing and keeping the right employees are key elements of corporate competence and ethics. Yet even in organisations with ethical leaders and great employees, the customer doesn’t always experience honesty, integrity and fairness. There are several reasons for this. One, no organisation is perfect so there are going to be times that something goes wrong and a customer experiences a shortcoming in some aspect of honesty, integrity or fairness.
The chief reason customers don’t consistently experience honesty, integrity and fairness when dealing with companies is this: Inadequate systems, processes, or controls are in place to proactively ensure that these values are embedded into the organisation’s DNA. Brilliance is providing some cool online solutions to address this need – over 150 companies are already using them and progressively improving their results.
*More to come in the ‘How to Build Customer Trust’ series. The next article addresses corporate intentions.
“You want customers to consistently experience honesty, integrity and fairness when dealing with your company? Implement systems, processes, and controls that proactively ensure that these values are embedded in your organisation.”
Talk to Brilliance if you see business value in taking a proactive approach to ensuring strong levels of customer trust. Contact Samantha directly: Samantha@BrillianceCX.com