• May 26, 2017
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

A Customer-Engaged Culture Requires a Vital Ingredient—Trust

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How does this apply to companies? It means that customers trust a company to the point where they feel it consists of peers, and those peers are found in all areas of the company that touch them—specifically, sales, marketing, and customer service. The company must show itself to be trustworthy and empathetic, among other things. None of these attitudes and behaviors are easy to measure because they are often intangible, but your business can make concrete efforts and establish concrete programs and deliver a supportive culture to make this work the way it should.


If you believe—as I hope you see I obviously do—that the most important thing your company can do for its customers is to establish a trusted relationship, then being capable of building such trust has to be an integral part of your business culture.

What exactly do we mean by trust in a business or a brand? (Without using the term “brand promise,” please—I’m sick of it.) Here are four ways to define it:

• The company’s transactions are successful and frictionless. Customers trust that when they buy from you, they will get the products or services they paid for and the quality they expect, and the transaction itself will be protected from theft and frictionless in the interchange.

• The promises made by the company are kept. This isn’t necessarily someone telling a customer “I promise I will [fill in the blank].” It’s a company getting things right consistently. It’s FedEx and UPS, for instance, delivering packages averaging a 99 percent on-time success rate.

• The company’s messages are truthful. The company is honest with the customer regardless of the subject matter, good or bad. Honesty is the best policy, goes the old saying. It’s an old saying because it holds up after all this time. Truth in business means trust in business. Let’s make that an old saying.

• The company acts as a trusted adviser to its customers. The company is showing that it has a self-interested but agnostic way of thinking about its customers and is willing to help them think through their strategies, practices, and approaches without the primary focus being on the products or services the company sells.

All of the above are a good start to achieving trust. But there is another facet to this: Your business needs to be able to trust that its employees will deal well with customers. That means formal organizational support for the empowerment of those employees. For example, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey franchise empowers each employee to work with customers to resolve issues and answer questions no matter what it takes to do so. But it’s not just a matter of goodwill. The employees are rewarded for outstanding performance in their efforts with fans at the arena and elsewhere.

This is a hint of what it takes to start putting the building blocks of an exceptional culture in place. Build trust with customers; trust your employees by empowering them to deal with customers in the name of the company; and then make sure that employees are rewarded for successfully adding to the building blocks of trust by compensating them appropriately. Institutionalization of trust is a core principle of a customer-engaged culture.

But that’s only one step. The next step to building “a company like me” is to develop a culture of empathy—and that will be the focus of part two, coming in the October issue.

Paul Greenberg is the managing principal of The 56 Group, a customer strategy company. He is the author of CRM at the Speed of Light, which is in nine languages and is currently in its fourth edition. He is also the author of the upcoming Commonwealth of Self Interest, to be published next year.

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