Does Your Company Pass the $20 Trust Test?


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Cowritten with Kate Feather

Customer trust is a topic that we are seeing in more and more of our clients’ customer feedback data. We have learned that customers define trust in two ways:

1) The firm conviction in the reliability of an organization’s services and

2) The belief that they have your best interests in mind

If we get trust right there are great benefits to be realized including undying loyalty to the brand and positive word-of-mouth.

Of course, the flip side is also true. Doing something to break a customer’s trust is perhaps the most damaging action for any business to make. Not only does lost trust equal lost business but it also means a bad reputation spread socially. And a bad reputation spread socially means lost revenue. We had written previously on such a story where a customer’s trust was broken, and they had spread it throughout Twitter, titled “How To Disappoint Customers on Social Media: A Cautionary Twitter Tale”.

Customer Trust: The Goal of Many

We are not only seeing customer trust come up for our own clients – across different sectors –but we are also hearing about it in the media and from the thinkers we follow. For instance, in the Brand Innovator series from Content Standard, Carmen Vetere from startup Gazelle said:

“Much of the marketing work at financial services companies is about driving trust with the customer. With Gazelle being in a new category, establishing trust with customers has been crucial to our growth as well.”

And, recently reported a shift in Lloyds Banking Group’s strategy to modify their corporate culture to focus on the customer and build trust. You can read more in this article. Sergio Vieira, head of customer insights and interaction, says this:

“We are trying to now build customer trust by putting them at the heart of decisions, using data-driven insights, and create a win/win/win for us, our customers, and our shareholders.”

Customer Trust and Me

And then there is my story.

It starts with my hatred of doing laundry. It’s boring, tedious, and I could be doing things much more entertaining (like writing blog posts or performing analysis on data). So when I moved, 3 years ago, I went on a hunt for a drop-off laundry place.
When I found Polly’s, I was in heaven. A dollar a pound for never having to do laundry again? Fantastic!

Laundry Pile

Choosing to partake of a drop-off laundry service requires a certain amount of trust in the business already. You start to wonder: will they shrink my favorite sweater? Will they lose my socks? Will they flat-out take my favorite pair of jeans?

For me, my dislike of this chore pushed me to take that leap of faith faster than someone else might.

Polly’s did a good job of building a solid foundation of trust. They didn’t lose my socks. My jeans always came back clean and folded and my favorite sweater retained its shape. But in the end, securing my trust came down to a mere $20 bill.

I’m notorious for leaving things in my pocket, be it headphones, chapstick, hair bands, whatever. This awesome place always ties whatever relics I leave in my pockets into a plastic bag and places them into the bag I dropped my clothes off in. And then one day the sweet ladies at Polly’s discovered $20 I had misplaced – and gave it right back to me.

I’m not sure about you, but if I left $20 bucks in any of the other places I frequent, I’m pretty sure I never would have seen it again. But Polly’s Laundromat employees are honest – and because of that I won’t go anywhere else… ever. Not because they saved my twenty, but because they restored a little bit of my faith in humanity.

So How Do I Build Trust As a Company?

So, what are the steps needed to secure customer trust?

  • It begins with reliability. First, you have to have a clear understanding of where the breakpoints are – when do you disappoint customers and fail to be reliable?
  • Next, you build a plan for responding to disappointment and broken trust. A real-time voice of the customer program will allow you to be aware of issues as they happen so that you can fix them before they damage the relationship and your reputation.
  • Third, you’ll need consider how to improve processes so that the broken elements of your experience are eradicated forever.

But, ultimately, trust is a cultural issue. I wrote previously on a Vladimir Gendelman’s approach with his company, in “The Best Way to Encourage Customer Trust from the Inside Out”. Vladimir has a beautiful foundation for his hiring policy. He only hires people he trusts, so that they can do the right thing, at the right time, for their customers.

Crumpled Twenty Dollars

While there is so much buzz about taking an Outside-In approach, it is our belief that when it comes to building customer trust it starts inside. It starts with who you hire but it also starts with how you lead and manage. Do your employees trust you? Do you trust them? Without doing the right thing for your people it is unfair to expect them to do the right thing for your customers. What would happen if you put your organization to the $20 Trust Test? I dare you…

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Xand Griffin
In her role as Marketing Designer at PeopleMetrics, Xand works with the researchers and executive team to develop PeopleMetrics content, reporting, and thought leadership.


  1. Great article! I love the simplicity of the 3 steps and the reminder to focus on company culture and hire trustworthy people. Sounds like you found out that Polly’s is aligned with your morals/ethics – that is definitely something that earns my loyalty as well! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Do you believe that aligning with your target customer morals/ethics are the most important step? That’s very interesting!

    When you’re focusing on the customer experience, you have to be an architect of emotions. You design the customer touch points with the aim stimulating emotions that will evoke certain feelings (like trust, as mentioned in the article). Morals and ethics follow xan easily follow after that customer journey mapping occurs.

    Thanks for commenting Stephanie!


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