5 Gestures of Trust

JUN 6, 2019 | Monde Donaldson, Vice President of the BBB Educational Foundation of Central & South Alabama

In today’s marketplace, consumer experience can make or break a business. We all know how poor service at a restaurant, an employee going the extra mile at the grocery store or the quality of your dry cleaning will affect your decision to return.  If consumers have a good experience at a car dealer they will spread the good word. If they were poorly treated, they will not only never set foot in that dealership again they will share their experience with their friends. If they are very vocal, they will turn to social media and Google reviews.

Since 2015, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been exploring what it means to be a contemporary better business. Values such as honesty, integrity, and ethics are essential. In fact, they are critical for building trusting relationships between consumers and businesses. Expectations have been evolving particularly among younger generations. They demand more from a business than a mere transaction. Today’s better business must be customer centric, employee focused, forward thinking/innovative and environmentally and socially conscious. These attributes were rarely part of a business model ten years ago.

In keeping with its mission to advance marketplace trust for all, the BBB wants to help businesses evaluate their customer relationships and in turn build a better business experience. I want to share with you, the "5 Gestures of Trust” to assist you when making decisions going forward. The nature of respect and trust must be experienced; this goes beyond just words. You just can’t claim to be "honest” or "equitable” without practicing what you are preaching.

The "5 Gestures of Trust” are – Be Honest, Be Transparent. Be Proactive, Be Humble and Be Equitable.

Be Honest - This is the one most consumers and businesses would identify first as important. Honesty is what builds trust the most. Without it trust does not exist at all. An example of being honest manifests itself in a business that does exactly what it says it will do.

Be transparent - This basically means you have nothing to hide. Customers experience transparency through how willing companies are to share information, particularly when doing so might make them competitively vulnerable. Ice cream or lettuce recalls are just recent products that have been in the news where companies had to admit mistakes and be open about them.

Be Proactive - I love this one. Anticipate what your customer might want or need and work together to achieve their goals. The key to being proactive is signaling that the company is always focusing on improving customers’ experiences and that this is normal, not extraordinary.

Be Humble - Being humble may not be the first thing a company thinks about when building trust and ultimately, a relationship with customers. However, it can be among the most powerful of the trust drivers. Being humble signals that the company is not arrogant, but rather is grateful, is not entitled, but rather respectful of its position.

Be Equitable - Our research suggests that this gesture may be the most important step of trust building companies can take. How does being equitable manifest itself in a business? It may have a generous return policy or the use of simple contracts, highlighting (not hiding) information important to consumers.

One doesn’t have to go far in the news or on social media to find instances of companies breaking their trust with customers. We see it every day. We believe the 5 Gestures of Trust can provide a foundation for lasting customer relationships.  I am happy  to share more  details on all the five gestures in future blogs or you may contact me at any time – mdonaldson@csal.bbb.org.

Monde Donaldson is Vice President of the BBB Educational Foundation of Central and South Alabama.