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How to Win (or Lose) Customer Trust

A recent shopping experience reminded me how important it is to earn the trust of your customers and how easy it is to lose it when you don’t pay attention to all three aspects of trust building.Here’s what happened.On Sunday, I was ecstatic.After a frustrating day shopping at virtually every appliance store in my hometown, hours of online research and surprising levels of ignorance about the product from sales staffs, I found the perfect dishwasher—energy efficient, attractive, reliable, functional and affordable—and a sales rep with surprising levels of knowledge who helped me compare a variety of products before I settled on my purchase.My trust in the company where I bought my appliance (a big box retailer who shall remain nameless) was sky high—this is where I would buy any appliance or electronic equipment I ever needed!Surely this was a place where customer service still lived!

On Wednesday, the dream turned into a nightmare when I found the delivery crew sitting on the floor staring blankly at the place where my new dishwasher should go.“We can’t install this,” they told me, “you need a plumber.”“Interesting,” I thought.“If you need a plumber, why not send one.”In fact, another store I visited said they only sent plumbers on dishwasher installations.But this company didn’t even have access to a plumber so back the dishwasher went and another store got my business.I doubt I’ll ever shop at said big box retailer again—at least not until this memory has faded and never for something I can’t install myself.

The answer to why that store won and lost my trust so quickly is very simple.According to Julio Olalla, master coach (www.newfieldnetwork.com) and author of From Knowledge to Wisdom, trust has three corners, like the points on a triangle.The first corner is competence, which means I believe you can do what you say you can do, the second is commitment—I believe you will do what you say you can do, and the third is intent—I believe your intention is to support me or at least to do me no harm.All three of these points must be present before trust can exist.

Lately, many companies have seemed to realize how important it is to build relationships with customers—to be polite and respectful no matter what.The two installers on my floor couldn’t have been more courteous.However, like my big box retailer, organizations who don’t deliver on all of the three points--competence, commitment and intent, risk losing the trust of customers, of employees, of investors.

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