Part of the continuing story expanding on the 9 Characteristics of Great Customer Experiences.
When I think about trust, I remember Middle School gym class. The teachers organized a segment about trust that included activities such as us leaning back and hope our teammates wouldn't drop us, flying down a zip wire, and other activities that foster a team environment.
The lean back activity was difficult. Not only we were all 12-13 years old, but kids 12-13 years old can be jerks. There was great risk that some of us would land on the floor "in the name of fun." I was chubby and awkward and figured my classmates wouldn't try to catch me, so I didn't stay straight and bent. A few others bent a bit as well. However, the 12-13 year olds weren't that jerky; I didn't fall to the floor.
I learned it is a natural instinct for most people to try to catch someone who is falling over and not let someone get hurt.
And I learned that actions speak louder than words.
The emotional bank account of trust
Actions are what create the emotional bank account that Stephen Covey talks about.
Stephen Covey compares building trust to maintaining an emotional savings account. If you are kind and generous and the like, you are completing actions that increase your "value" in someone's bank account. If you do something on the mean side, withdraw from the bank, and that's fine as long as you have enough deposits in the bank to cover it. If you overdraw, then you have issues in your relationship because you are in the negative, and that's when you usually have work to do to make it up to that person.
Sure, you should think before you do anything and stay on the nice side, but we are human, and we all make mistakes. Occasionally we will withdraw from another's bank account, but we need to be sure we don't withdraw too much.
Companies are similar to people in this regard - depending on their actions, they will withdraw or deposit "funds" into the emotional bank account of the consumer.
I think four traits build a trust bank with customers:
A company needs to be "itself," meaning that its brand values (or personality) is reflected in its actions.
Examine your business’ processes. Ask yourself: are these systems in line with our core values and organizational identity? Make deletions and amendments where appropriate.
-- Matt Ackerson, How To Embrace The Power Of Authentic Marketing, Forbes.com
Zappos.com is a great example of a company that is truly authentic. ABC did a segment about them.
Why they are authentic?
“Our whole goal is we want to build the best brand of customer service,” Hsieh said. “Hopefully, 10 years from now, people won’t even realize that we started selling shoes.”
...Hsieh said a tight-knit company culture and quality customer service are synonymous. To that end, corporate culture is every bit as important as the bottom line at Zappos, and the company has an annually published Culture Book that has grown to 480 pages to prove it.
--Press release, From Upstart To $1 Billion Behemoth, Zappos Marks 10 Years
Their brand isn't just external to be used in ads - it's also part of their internal culture, which helps people inside the company act naturally when interacting with customers. Each employee is truly being him or herself in every customer interaction. There is no facade or acting to support the "company line." The processes and the culture are tied to the external brand to ensure maximum consistency. It's beautiful!
Virgin America is another authentic company. If you look at their mission statement:
Virgin America is a California-based airline that is on a mission to make flying good again, with brand new planes, attractive fares, top-notch service, and a host of fun, innovative amenities that are reinventing domestic air travel.
They also have a guest service commitment - they put their customer experience to the front of everything they do -- it's part of their culture and experience. And it pays off - this airline has won best domestic airline in multiple publications from 2008 - 2014 (and will probably win for 2015). Yes - 7 years straight!
Steve Jobs defined a new way to market products - and re-defined Apple to expand its authenticity beyond boxes.
I think this video says everything about the values that Apple embodies. And they have succeeded - to the point that they have transformed themselves into a media company.
A closer look, however, reveals that Apple not only has a significant media business, it’s bigger than most major media companies — and possibly at their expense.
--Edmund Lee, Apple’s ITunes Would Be One of World’s Biggest Media Companies, Bloomberg.com
We often talk about corporate social responsibility, which is important, but I'm referring to a company being responsible for the result of its processes and actions. A company needs to own what it does and how it does it (like people need to own their successes and failures).
It needs to do what it says it is going to do.
Zappos.com, Virgin America and Apple all do this - and this is why they are trusted brands. They make a commitment to their customers in their values and stick to it. Zappos is committed to it's return policy, which is almost any shopper's insurance policy, so to speak, for a purchase she felt wasn't her best. Virgin America commits to great customer service - and they always achieve this. Apple is committed to innovation and making great products - they do this every time.
I haven't had direct experience with Zappos (I have bought from them on occasion, but I don't have a disaster story to share).
I have a lot of experience with Virgin America, and I have found that when they don't deliver the highest level of service quality, they immediately remedy the situation in some way. In the early days of the airline, many of their planes were flying when they weren't quite ready - often the TV or Internet wasn't working at 100%. In those cases, they would provide every flier with a $25 credit (if there were more items missing on the flight, you'd get another $25 credit). At one point I had about $50-100 worth of credits, but the credit offer made me feel that they had higher expectations of themselves to make sure everything was working at 100%. I was willing to let it go that they didn't have the TV or Internet - but they weren't. If they acted this way about a small detail, imagine how they would act about something important?
I also have had my luggage "lost" with Virgin America. Ok, it technically wasn't lost, but it wasn't on the flight I was on. I was going to Vegas. I've had lost luggage many times before this one, but even as a pro at that, it is always unnerving to not have your stuff. I went to lunch, tried to relax, and of course, kept calling and checking on my luggage every hour. Each time I'd talk to a representative, no one lost patience (and a few times I talked to the same person). In fact, they felt a little empathy. My luggage finally arrived at the hotel and Virgin called to let me know - in addition to the front desk staff who got my bags. It was one of the best lost luggage experiences ever (if there is such a thing)!
All technology products have flaws and bugs - there is no way to avoid this no matter how much QA is done. No product is at 100%. However, when a flaw is identified with an Apple product, they will quickly respond to fix it.
As an example, let's look at the security leak that was in iCloud with the photos. A number of celebrity photos were leaked, and Apple had to respond quickly to fix it.
Apple has expanded its use of "two-step verification" checks to protect data stored online by its customers.
--Leo Kelion, Apple toughens iCloud security after celebrity breach, BBC News
There have been other challenges with Apple products, but generally, they respond quickly to make sure customers are satisfied.