In Praise of Trust-Building….


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I’m borrowing from that well-known contemporary philosopher, Gordon Gekko, who, if he were thinking in a less cynical and more customer-centric way, might have said:

“Trust, for lack of a better word, is good. Trust is right, trust works. Trust clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Trust, in all of its forms: trust for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind. And trust, you mark my words, will save the USA. Thank you very much.”

I’m always reminded of how much importance, and history, trust and believeability have in business relationships. It was first discussed, as a virtue, by Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics, which I studied as a college student. Going back to Roman times, as another example, the word ‘sincere’ literally comes from two Latin words, sine and cera, or ‘without wax’. Trust between individuals, between individuals and institutions, and between institutions themselves, without a wax seal on a formal contractual document, was enough to complete an agreement.

Trust can power enterprise success, bringing customer loyalty and advocacy, employee ambassadorship, and enduring brand value. In one of my CustomerThink blogs, utilizing material from one of the best management books I’ve ever read, it has been chronicled how a dash of selflessness, servant leadership, innovation, and customer focus can drive extraordinary, long-term financial performance and sustainability:

Few would argue with trust optimization as a strategic corporate objective, and the results it brings.

Long-time colleagues like Philip Kotler, Bob Thompson, Jeanne Bliss, Don Peppers (who speaks actively about ‘corporate trustability’), Colin Shaw, Peter Fader (marketing professor, and customer-centricity expert, at The Wharton School), Maz Iqbal, Leslie Gaines-Ross (Chief Reputation Strategist of Weber Shandwick), and Jagdish Sheth (co-author of Firms of Endearment) pretty much concur that trust, especially in stakeholder (customer, employee, and supplier) experiences and in reputation and image, are critical to optimizing customer loyalty behavior. Inherent in this are having a corporate culture that is trust-centric and customer-centric, plus the trust-building behavior of employees (with customers and each other) and processes. The financial success that most typically accompanies the creation of trust (see links below) is an attractive result which gets the attention of corporate executives (or, if it doesn’t, definitely should).

There are so many instances of enterprises which are ‘doing well by doing good’ through altruism, proactive and seamless support, dyadic, more personalized and value-driven relationships, and other examples of trust creation that there is no need to list them. These concepts, it turns out, are closely aligned because of their impact on stakeholders; and, the fact that building trust may not be a prime goal of C-suite executives shouldn’t particularly faze anyone – it’s the result of trust creation that should be emphasized.

Here are some of my thoughts on aspects of trust, through CustomerThink blogs:

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


  1. Hello Michael

    Trust is the basis of relationship and communication. Where a bunch of people operate from a context of trust, they do what is necessary, they take care of one another, they help each other out, they do not keep score. Trust is like the engine oil – without the right amount-quality of engine oil even the most advanced-powerful engine becomes useless.

    The central issue is that trust is necessary between all the stakeholders. Which means that a stakeholder centred approach that builds understanding-trust between all the stakeholder groups, centred on a purpose that acts as the unifying mission, is essential. Taking a stakeholder approach is akin to moving from ‘business as usual’ which is focussed on the needs-wants of the Tops – at the expense of suppliers, employees, customers, communities, govts – to the conscious capitalism model being advocated by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia.

    The question is what will it take for us to shift from ‘business as usual’ to ‘conscious capitalism’? It occurs to me that this requires a new context, a new paradigm, where we shift from the default ‘You or Me’ to ‘WE’. Where we think as much about the future as we do about today. Where we switch from a focus on differentiation to one of making a genuine difference in the world: contributing to making the world work for all, all stakeholders including future stakeholders.

    Here is what hits me between the eyes: when we genuinely shift from ‘You or Me’ to ‘WE’ in our way of being and showing up in the world then trust shows up almost automatically. Put differently, if I get that you care for me then that is the basis of trust. Nothing else is necessary to build that trust. And in the absence of this genuine emotional caring for me, there will be no enduring trust no matter what techniques we use on one another.

    It occurs to me that CRM and Customer Experience are the latest techniques that many are using to continue practicising business as usual. And as such they are predestined not to deliver on the promise. In the context of greed and selfishness only greed and selfishness can show up.

    What do you say?

    All the best and thank you for mentioning me in your post. I am truly grateful that you hold me in such high regard.

    At your service / with my love

  2. ….often quoted in professional baseball, football, hockey, and basketball: “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’.” Collaboration, teamwork, and partnership, especially between stakeholders, and between stakeholders and institutions, is essential for optimal value delivery.


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