Can Your Company Compete with Radical Trust?


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Several years ago I heard a story about a shoe repair shop from one of their long-time customers.  It’s a small business tale about trust with a twist that might surprise you.  Like many businesses, this shoe repair shop was built on a self-service model.  That model was necessary because the sole proprietor did his cobbling at night; during the day he held down a full-time job as an employee of another company.  His customers left their shoes for repair in a converted newspaper vending machine located on his front porch.  Shoes that were ready for pick-up as well as the money folder were also in the machine.  Yes, I said the money folder.  Customers dropped off and picked up their shoes and also left their payment.  He never came up short, of money or shoes.

In the last few years there has been plenty of material written about earning customer trust.  However; you don’t see much written about trusting the customer.  Can you earn trust without giving it?  For the cobbler’s customers in that rural community it appears a key to giving trust was getting it first.

Today we would describe that type of business climate as “radical trust.”  It’s a state of trust where parties on both sides of a transaction fully recognize the greater benefits of reciprocal good faith.  The cobbler let his customers into his inner circle by trusting that he would get paid for his work.  He believed that people were inherently good and let the self-policing reputation-based honor system work.

I suspect for many businesses it would be a scary thought to implicitly trust their customers.  And yet, without trust most relationships will not move forward.  I often think of trust through the following formula:

Trust = (Rapport x Credibility) / Risk

Actions that help develop rapport and credibility, while at the same time reducing risk, will build long-lasting, trust-based relationships.  In marketing, Collin Douma describes the notion of radical trust as a key mindset required for marketers and advertisers to enter the social media marketing space.  In his opinion, the tide has turned and now marketers must radically trust the consumer in order to build the brand.

Trust is the real currency in the social economy.  Does your company trust the customer?  Small businesses typically produce nearly half of the U.S. private nonfarm GDP. You can’t help but feel that radical trust is an important part of what holds our economy together.

Trust Cannot be Microwaved
Contact Alan See CMO Temps, LLC at [email protected]

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


  1. This is an excellent piece about how trust, a core emotion driving perceived value, is important on both the customer and supplier side of the relationship. Since personal stories are often evocative of the thesis, here’s one of mine. Several years ago, I was in Antwerp, Belgium on business. Many people know that Antwerp is a diamond jewelry center, and I wanted to get my wife a diamond and gold pendant. Colleagues recommended a favorite jewelry store near the railroad station in the center of town. I found the perfect pendant; but, when they tried to process payment, for some unknown reason none of my credit cards would work on their machines. The store owner didn’t hesitate. He said: “Take the pendant home to your wife. It’s beautiful and I’m sure she will love it. Wire me the money.” Wow!! An expensive piece of jewelry entrusted to a customer just on the basis of how we interacted. I’ve never forgotten that. And he was right – she loved the pendant, but scolded me for not also bringing home Belgian chocolate.

    Anyway, the key point of the post is that trust, as a fundamental positive emotion, trumps most other subconscious and functional elements of perceived value. Again and again, we find that to be true.

  2. Alan, I understand and agree with what you are saying.
    Companies want customers to trust them and to be loyal to them and not the reverse. I wrote about company loyalty, see

    Everything cannot be one sided. Companies tell us these are our rules, follow them…what about our rules. My rule is I will pick up the shoes at lunch time. Company rules are that we will close at lunch! Companies rule, pay first. What about my rule that I will pay when I am convinced the part works?

    and unser weiter

  3. Trust = (Rapport x Credibility) / Risk. Great formula.

    If you add “value” to the equation, I think you might have the formula for loyalty. Ie: ((Rapport x Credibility) / Risk)x(Value))

  4. great piece. Trust is, like loyalty, a two way concept. If I don’t trust you, why would I expect you trusting me? Michaels example goes a long way showing trust, but the jeweller probably had some CCTV, and a reference to the existing customers given, to back up the trust 😉

    Where I do not agree, is the formula. This is because it has a singularity, and until then has no maximum. So, it is probably better to describe it with summation/subtraction, with the three parameters being [0 .. 1]. So, how about Rapport + credibility – 2*risk – although that can become negative?

    But then I am a computer scientist by education …



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