3 Things Businesses Can Do to Build Trust

The well-documented decline in Americans' ability to trust organizations is a compelling wake-up call. Study after study shows a steady decline in public trust among nearly every institution, from political leadership to news media to business. As a society, we are failing at earning trust.Your employees, customers, supporters and business partners yearn for trusted relationships. They want to be able to believe in you, and to count on you. According to a study last month by the American Press Institute, "Americans who place the greatest emphasis on trust factors are most likely to pay, share or follow that source."The payoff should be obvious: a more engaged and productive workforce, and loyal customers and supporters (including investors) who believe in your cause and your plans for future success.As Eduardo Laite, Chairman of the Executive Committee for Baker & McKenzie, USA, said at last year's World Economic Forum: "Trust is the glue that binds employees to employers, customers to companies - and companies to their suppliers, regulators and partners. Yet, several years on from the financial crisis and ensuing recession, efforts to rebuild trust are still ongoing."In an ever-commoditized world, being trusted is a huge differentiator for business. So what does it take for your business to build trust? Here are three key areas of focus:

  1. Constantly track how your audiences really feel about you.Are you keeping your finger on your trust pulse? Is your organization doing everything in its power to create and maintain a trustworthy culture? Will people recommend you to others? An organization's ability to demonstrate a track record of above and beyond products, service competence and dedication to satisfaction is worthy of constant management focus and attention. Manage to these measures constantly and evaluate areas of your employee or customer experience that can be improved.
  1. Do what you say you're going to do - no exceptions.Nothing undermines trust more than inconsistent actions. From your highest-paid executive to your lowest-paid call center representative, the ability to deliver consistently on the organization's promise to others is paramount. In today's world of instant, self-published information, one truly bad experience can be amplified to the extreme. Organizations that have a well established "trust compass" will always do the right thing, and are easiest to forgive when correcting an occasional mistake or misunderstanding. While operational perfection is impossible, positive relationship building is almost always achievable.
  1. Let others do the talking.This is the intersection of trust and reputation. One of the fundamental tenets of excellent public relations is amplifying how others speak to their positive experiences with you. Self-purported claims ring hollow. But positive reviews on third-party sources, news coverage, case studies, comments on social media and employees who say great things about working for you are all compelling testimony to the character of your organization. You should focus on making sure these genuine sentiments and stories are easy for others to find, and celebrate them internally with the people responsible for making them happen.

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