Integrating timeless principles with modern research to transform mindsets and organizational cultures

Trust is Good for Business

Trust is Good for Business

The install crew ran into a problem as soon as they started to replace the cracked plate glass window in our dining room. The company’s policy is to preserve the original wood frame, but dismantling the frame was proving difficult. The crew decided to cut the frame out which meant they’d go to a lumber store for replacement wood. The company would absorb the costs which the crew estimated would be less than the time it would take to preserve the original wood frame. When finished, the window frame was beautifully restored.

As I watched the crew go through their decision process, they didn’t call to get permission. There was no standing around waiting for a call back from a supervisor; action was immediate. The company trusted their crew to make good decisions. That trust made decentralized decision-making possible, reduced the cost of doing business, and led to customer satisfaction.

L.L.Bean is another high-trust organization, making them the first source for gear among many outdoor enthusiasts. Why? For me, it boils down to trust. I trust that L.L.Bean’s buyers will select quality equipment. I trust if something goes wrong, L.L.Bean will stand behind the product.  

Last year I had an issue with new cross-country ski equipment. In one call, L.L.Bean’s customer service specialist diagnosed and resolved the problem. Bean sent replacement skis even before I returned  the faulty equipment.

L.L. Bean’s  organizational culture allows employees act on their founding corporate value: “Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more.”   

We all have stories of great brands and customer-focused organizations. We love them. Still, some companies perpetuate low-trust cultures.

In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey makes the business case for growing a high-trust culture. Lack of trust is like a new tax on an organization because it increases the cost of “communication, collaboration, execution, innovation, strategy, engagement, partnering and relationships with all stakeholders.”

“Trust [is] the fundamental basis for doing business with consumers, customers, partners, suppliers, and each other.”–A. G. Lafley, former CEO, Procter and Gamble

HBO Now is laboring under the low-trust culture of HBO. HBO Now is HBO’s stand alone service that is aiming at customers in cord-cutter families like mine. Signing up was easy. Then the wait started. We never received the welcome email with the necessary username and password for tablets.

I called customer service at HBO Now, expecting an easy fix: resend the email. But no. HBO Now customer service representatives are not empowered to resend an email. Instead, they asked for proof of purchase and escalated my issue up to HBO.

Days passed. Out of curiosity and with good humor, I decided to call back on six different days.  Some reps politely stuck to the script and told me their “technical engineers” had to resolve the issue. Others sheepishly admitted how frustrated they felt that HBO didn’t allow them to solve a simple issue.

Today, two weeks after the problem was reported, their escalation team is still working on sending me an email. I’m not calling them again; they have lost me as a customer.

Apparently, HBO doesn’t trust their employees or their customers. As a consequence, their reps can’t solve simple issues.  HBO service is totally optional in the lives of many customers. How many customers can they afford to lose? How much is their low-trust culture impacting their bottom-line?  

If HBO is not listening to the employees and their customers, Netflix surely is.

Trust is an essential ingredient  for business success, writes Rich Karlgaard in his book The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success:

Decades of research have highlighted the central role of trust in organizations. At the micro level, trust has been linked to outcomes like employee satisfaction, effort and performance, office citizenship, collaboration and teamwork, leadership effectiveness, and negotiation success. At the macro level, trust has been credited as a driving force in organizational change and survival, entrepreneurship, strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions, and even national economic health.

There can be no trust between customers and a company if there is not first trust between the company and their employees. In order to be trustworthy, you first have to be trusting. The trust that we have in organizations is built by leaders who are trusting.

Do you trust your employees to do the right thing? Trust is a mindset. Trust grows when your organization has a purpose and imbued values that guide employee behavior. Contact me to explore how we might work together through leadership workshops and coaching to grow a high-trust culture in your organization.

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