Myth: Trust is earned.
Truth: Trust is not earned. Trust is granted.
If I can earn your trust, then you have given away power to me. If I can earn your trust, then trust is something that can be quantified, and all I have to do is reach a goal, a standard, a 100% of something that necessarily releases what you have. Trust doesn’t work that way.
Trust is something that you grant. You can give it or not give it. Trust is in your control, an expression of your power and will.
If someone failed you, and then asked, “What can I do to get your trust back,” I doubt you gave them a clear list of tasks to complete.
Trust is an opportunity you extend for someone to act in your best interest. Trust is a bridge you are willing to cross with another from the known to the unknown. When you get on an airplane, you trust the pilot to get you there safely, and to get you to a place in a way you could not on your own.
Do-It-Yourself industries rely on undermining the trust you put in professionals. Where you once relied on someone to act in your best interest and to do so with a knowledge you did not possess, DIY now gives you the knowledge you need to act in your own interest (while trusting that the knowledge they provide is accurate). It’s not that professionals are bad; some just aren’t needed like they once were. Trust is rooted in need.
Consumers are moving their trust away from institutions and toward individuals. It is a major shift. Before, we relied on the good name of companies. Now, corporate reputation as a whole is suspect. Consumers either rely on individuals directly (e.g. Airbnb, which averages 5 email exchanges before booking, vs. hotels) or indirectly (hence, the rise of peer reviews).
Trust cannot be earned, but it can be triggered. How do companies today trigger the trust of the public?
The Musts of Trust
1. Don’t try to build trust. Trigger trust.
Building trust is an exercise of persuasion. Being trustworthy is an expression of character. Persuasion seeks to have you act in another’s best interest. Character will act in our best interest.
Trust is triggered by four trustworthy character-istics. Not any one of these is a magic bucket that, once filled, requires the trust of another. Each one of these is a signal, for reasons you cannot predict, to another’s mind and emotion that they can grant something of their self to you.
Competence: Do you have what it takes to act in my interest or get me to a place in a way that I cannot?
Consistency: Will you be responsive to me and act in a way that I can count on you?
Care: Are you really driven to meet my need or is your service just a camouflage for your own profit?
Congruence: Does your behavior match your stated intentions?
Trust is not necessarily revoked because of failure. Studies have shown that loyalty to a company is highest not among those who never had a problem with a company, but with those who had an issue rightly resolved. Why? Because competence is but one of four triggers, and if, when you fail, you are responsive, genuinely caring, and living up to what you project, then trust might remain in place.
2. Technology that triggers trust amplifies decisions rather than dictates decisions.
Technology does things for people, and it has a growing role in deciding things for people (algorithms). Your company will be more human when it chooses to enhance decision-making (honoring a trust to be granted) rather than to impose a decision (trying to require trust).
Customer knowledge (which informs what you offer) plus multiple options (which maintains your customer’s power of choice) is the equation for relational business versus transactional business. And the more you seem human (relational), the more you will trigger trust.
The Role of Technology
Your company’s technology serves the triggers. Technology is not only about you being more efficient; technology empowers your ability to be trustworthy. IT must do both – serve you, and strengthen your competence, consistency, care and congruence.
Failure to utilize technology to both serve you and strengthen you will cause consumers to entrust their needs elsewhere, and neither one of you may be able to articulate why – and that’s because trust is not a commodity a company can measure and attain, but a part of a consumer that they willingly, if not consciously, give.