I have heard it said that trust is like an elevator cable, in that only its absence should be remarkable. If I imagine the epitome of trust a brain surgeon comes to mind. What would it take to trust this professional? Competence? Yes, most certainly and a reputation for having a 100% success rate. Commitment? Yes, absolutely – commitment to excellence and integrity to match. The trust that is required here is not in equal proportions but rather 100% of each.
In a business-to-business context, trust is something that is built in time. It is firstly earned, then maintained and preserved, at least. Then it has to be grown. Earning trust implies moving from a position of reputational trust in which a client does not have faith in your ability to deliver but relies on your proven track record and perhaps your promises. Trust then moves to a position where your trust is engendered based on their experience of your delivery exceeding your initial promise. Clients do trust implicitly, or they wouldn’t have chosen to do business with you in the first place.
Trust is also capricious. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey talks about thinking of trust like a bank account. I like to think of trust as an emotional bank account. You have to constantly make trust deposits. The problem with trust is that you have no control of the extent of the withdrawal should there be a breach in trust. Trust can erode very quickly. There are no degrees of trust on the downward scale, at least not between business entities. The easiest way to compromise engendered trust is by, of course, providing something less than what your clients have become accustomed to or what you promised them. Unfortunately, trust is not science, not measurable. Trust is driven by feelings and emotion. Perception rules. If there is any doubt, alternatives creep in.
If your client does trust you, the only thing that will keep them trusting – and keep them as your client – is exceeding expectations each time and every time. No compromise! However, trust is not static. The trust challenge is exacerbated when your commitment is to continuous service excellence. Unless you continuously improve, the trust you have engendered also erodes!
Trust is not only about actions exceeding expectation. It is also about language. If you are feeling compelled to use words such as because, but, should have, would have, could have; you are eroding trust. Not only is trust about integrity – doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it, but also about authenticity – saying what you mean and meaning what you say in a way that is empowering to yourself and your client. Trust is about vocalizing your sense of purpose, demonstrating your incorruptibility.
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