Sunday, April 19, 2009

How much do you trust me?

It was Switzerland. On a boat on the Brienzersee near Interlaken. The date was May 2002. Morris Tabaksblat, our then Chairman, gave an after-dinner speech on the topic of trust and how this would be the next big issue for business to deal with. We laughed. One wag commented that it was like "greetings from the Planet Zog". Oh how prescient his words were in hindsight. Nowadays it seems as if aliens from the Planet Greed have invaded many boardrooms and have set about exterminating trust.

Trust is important. Without trust there are no relationships. No relationships between people. No relationships between companies and their customers. And without relationships you are left with only transient transactions. It is very hard to build a sustainable, profitable business based on transactions.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately and especially on how you might measure trust. Net Promoter Score, the current favourite metric for many, doesn't quite do it for me. It is perhaps an indirect measure of trust. Perhaps. If you simply ask "how much do you trust me?", the first response will probably be "to do what". So that doesn't help.

Or does it. Suppose we define a "trust to" metric. A metric that measures how much our customers trust us to do what we promise to do. I think all business makes promises to its customers, even if that promise is implicit and not immediately obvious. For example, a delivery company makes a promise to its customers to deliver at the agreed time, so perhaps they might define a "trust to deliver" metric: how much do you trust us to deliver when we say we will. An airline makes a promise to fly safely: "trust to be safe". A publisher makes a promise not to publish crap. A bank makes a promise to take care of your money....

I wonder what promise your company makes?

Once you have defined your promise, the next step is to turn it into a "trust to" metric, then go ask people. How much do you trust us to do what we promise? And if you know how to measure it, you can start to work on influencing it. You can use this metric to filter ideas and business initiatives: will our customers trust us more if we do this? Or less? What else could we do for our customers to trust us more to do what we promise?

Obviously this will not by itself rebuild trust, but making trust measurable just might help people care about it a little more. And that would be good for everyone, wouldn't it?

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