Several years ago I went to an auto body shop recommended by my auto insurer to get a driver’s side mirror replaced. The young lady who runs her family business was efficient and cheerful and gave me a reasonable estimate. She drove me to and from my commuter rail station so I didn’t have to worry about cabbing it. The shop finished the job quickly and expertly.
My wife’s car eventually needed some auto body repair work and she received the same treatment. We learned that the shop also did regular auto repairs and decided to give the shop a try. For both our cars, the auto body shop’s mechanical repairs were cheaper than our auto dealers. In terms of our treatment, the shop was consistently friendly, efficient, and reasonable in cost. Now we don’t take our cars to be repaired anywhere else. My wife and I have watched the young lady get married, have two children, and continue to run the family business with the help of her husband and parents.
A Used Car?
The other day, while I was being driven home from the auto body shop, the young lady mentioned that her family business was now also selling pre-driven cars, i.e. used cars. She told me that her criterion for selling a car was simply that she would only sell a car that she herself would buy.
Now I have never bought a used car and did not think I ever would in my life. When I have the need, I would buy a used car from this young lady. Why is that? Trust! I trust her and her business. Over the years, by her consistent conduct and consistent service, she has earned my family’s business trust. So much so, that I have altered my risk-averse policy of never buying a used car. Our business relationship has evolved from body work to mechanical repairs and, now, to used car sales. It reminds me of the old saw on ultimate trustworthiness: “Would you buy a used car from this guy?”
What Has Trust Got To
Do With It?
Executives, entrepreneurs and professionals are so focused on making “the sale” and delivering the good or service that they forget the fundamental glue in a business transaction or business relationship is
establishing and maintaining trust.
Consumers trust Apple products because they know the products will be consistently fun, useful, high quality and cutting edge. Diners trust McDonalds because they know the food and drink will be consistently cheap, filling, flavorful and served in a clean restaurant. Coffee drinkers trust Starbucks because they can expect the baristas to know their preferences and they can linger as though they were in a European café. These consumers know exactly what they are getting and they, in turn, become receptive to new product offerings of these companies, whether it be an iPad, a McRib sandwich, or instant coffee. Do your customers or clients or patients know what they are getting?
Consistent good conduct and service create trust. So, too, executives and professionals must put first and foremost their trustworthiness in the delivery of their goods and services and in their personal behavior.
Trust As A Soft Skill
I have always naturally focused on competence and reliability and I never consciously thought about the importance of the trust factor. When my clients keep coming back to me for strategic career or corporate advice, even long after I have negotiated their employment contracts or severance packages or drafted their LLC operating agreements, I now understand it is because they trust me.
Without trust, an executive or a professional cannot do long-term business effectively. We know trust when we feel it.
Are you trusted in business? Do your colleagues trust you? Do your customers, clients or patients trust you? It is unfortunate that our grad schools and professional schools don’t teach a course on trust. This soft trait/skill is our most important one.