Is Organizational Trust in Short Supply?


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At the core of all customer-focused organizations are two essential characteristics: trust and commitment. Through trust and commitment customer-focused organizations demonstrate that they are dependable, reliable and that they honor their word. With that said, my hat is off to Bill’s Jewelry Shop in downtown Grinnell, Iowa. In a recent article in The Grinnell Magazine I read that Elizabeth McJimsey Souder graduated from Grinnell College in 1988 without picking up her restrung pearl necklace from the Grinnell merchant. Shop owners Bill and Jeanne Hammen tried several times over the years to get in touch with Souder, but could not make contact. Over the next two decades Souder moved many times, while her forgotten pearls waited in Grinnell, stored away with some other pieces of unclaimed jewelry.

Souder stated … “I recall wondering about the pearls several times and shuddering at the thought that I had lost them, because they had belonged to my grandmother, I became convinced that I’d carelessly lost them somewhere along the way.”

Last year the Hammen’s were finally able to reconnect the pearls with their owner.

Souder added … “I’m not at all surprised that a Grinnell merchant would go to these lengths to find someone and reconnect them with their belonging – it’s just what people do in that community.”

Today there seems to be a growing chasm between consumers’ trusts and the business organizations they depend upon. Polls shows that only 4 percent of U.S. adults say they trust their HMO; 7 percent their health insurer; 11 percent, their life insurer; 12 percent their telco. Seventy-four percent say corporate America’s reputation is “not good” or “terrible.”

What is your organization doing to help restore and build consumer trust?

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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. Alan: your example reminded me of what a client told me twenty years ago when I sold software to the lumber and building material industry: “If I ever were to lose my wallet, I’d want a lumber person to find it.” You can’t manufacture that level of trust, and there are many intangible ideas that are wrapped up in his sentiment. One thing is clear–maintaining trust takes an unwavering commitment to putting a customer’s interests first, and a long, long track record of doing so.

  2. Alan,

    Nice post. I definitely agree that there is a growing sense of distrust in both B2C and B2B worlds.

    And also think Andrew Rudin’s comment is important: the key in rebuilding that trust is getting back to the basics and being consistent. Organizations are being pressed to clearly identify what the customer-centric value proposition is, and build customer confidence through consistently conforming to their expectations.

    Easier said than done in some cases, especially with shrinking resources.

  3. Alan,

    Clearly you are referring to trust in the relationship when you speak about the level of customer trust. One reason there is such low trust in various businesses is that they focus on trust in the product as yes we will stand behind it. That’s not the way most business leaders would describe their trustworthiness but if you ask them what systematic actions they take to build trust in the relationship they go silent.



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