NEW ORLEANS --Billy Joel knew the importance of trust when he released his hit single in 1986, and, more than 20 years later, trust continues to be critical in maintaining customer relationships. As Unica's 2008 Marketing Innovation Summit continued here today, Joe Healy, an independent consultant and author of Radical Trust: How Today's Great Leaders Convert People to Partners, conveyed this message in his morning keynote, "Unlocking Trust: The Key to Gaining Cooperation, Creativity, and Camaraderie."
For customers, Healy told the audience, trust is the difference between mere noise and a mutually beneficial dialogue. The basic idea that trust will allow a company to be more creative -- to perform better -- isn't new, he said; but what is often overlooked is that increased competition, combined with a need for talent, has driven us to a much-higher-level need for trust and dialogue.
Healy drew on several examples -- industry leaders who have built their companies around the idea of promoting consumer trust, and, as a result, continue to receive widespread loyalty. He focused on four key factors:
Google, for example, maintains a positive relationship with its users in a simple policy that's summarized in just three keywords, a motto inscribed on the documents it filed with regulators before it went public: Do no evil. Google, it's worth noting, wasn't the first search engine on the market -- but now it's by far the leader.
- Consistency; and
Healy referenced a personal event that further exemplified the value of trust in relationships. As a part of Youth Entertainment Studios, a program for at-risk youth interested in the arts, Healy was trying to understand why, despite the availability of top-of-the-line technology and studio equipment, some studios were floundering. Healy discovered it's not about the technology or the content; what the program lacked was a meaningful relationship between the coordinators and the youth. "We thought we were so smart spending a lot of money on technology," Healy said. Instead, they realized that they had to "work at building trust," he told the attendees. "It doesn't happen automatically."
An important component of trust, Healy added, is consistency. Today's marketers are often so fixated on getting things done that they let time rule their lives. Instead, Healy advised marketers to "get better at managing your energy than managing your time." Historically, he said, people who are highly influential are those who are emotionally mature. This is not to suggest that garnering trust from others requires that marketers always be in an exceptionally good mood, but it does require them to maintain discipline in their own lives before they can expect to receive the trust of others.
Healy described Joe Croce, the founder of CiCi's Pizza, as someone who uses his humility to elicit trust from employees -- a perspective that, in turn, is projected onto the consumers. With its promise of all-you-can eat pizza and salad for under five dollars, the business grew from 70 to 600 locations nationwide. Despite his success, Croce drove an economy rental car to show that he wasn't more important than anyone else -- "It was a tight-margin business, so he drove a tight-margin car," Healy said.
Finally, Healy described how Pam Nelson, former chief executive officer of CCG Systems, a fleet-management software provider, maintained the integrity of her company by putting the customer's trust at the forefront of her decision-making criteria. From the beginning, the company focused on answering all service calls by the third ring and always having available a highly knowledgeable representative. When the company was undergoing management changes, there was talk of implementing a tiered customer service system -- a move, Nelson argued, that would have violated CCG's corporate integrity and put the company at huge risk.
"The longest 18 inches is between the head and the heart," Healy told the audience. Marketers need to not only understand the value of trust, but believe in it. When evaluating projects, he advised:
"[To] close the gap between the customer's brain and their heart is through dialogue -- through influence -- and the tool is trust," he said.
- think carefully and don't pursue ones that decrease trust;
- don't settle for ones that don't affect trust; and
- invest everything into ones that promote trust.
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