A question of trust


Net A Porter, now there’s a brand that gets trust. Image courtesy of Idhren

Trust is reciprocal, right?

You trust the people that trust you and you can’t possibly trust the people that don’t trust you. All of us instinctively know that but most brands and businesses, perennially autistic in their ability to understand people and human nature, still don’t get it.

Now this wouldn’t matter a fig but for one thing. Those brands and businesses seem desperate to be trusted, absolutely and tragically desperate. Hell they have started setting customer trust as a KPI. Boots even had Mother run ‘Trust Boots’ as their end line for a while before everyone was talked down from the ledge of lunacy and they plumped for the anodyne but fair, ‘Feel Good’.

Every one wants to be trusted but no sector more so than financial services. And of course they have good reason. While no measure is more important to the very core of their relationship with customers than trust, no measure was more gleefully squandered in their orgy of fiscal irresponsibility than trust. One by one they flushed every scintilla of trust that people had invested in them down the crapper, and boy do they want it back. But they are going about it entirely the wrong way if you ask me. Because they want their customers to trust them but they are not prepared to trust their customers. And therein lies the problem. They have fundamentally and at the very heart of their businesses, forgotten that to be trusted you have to offer trust.
I have been banging on about this for bloody ages but to no avail. Financial services people just look at you blankly and mutter something about compliance, money laundering and my manifest and hopeless naivety about their business – trust customers heaven forfend, this man should be sectioned under the mental health act.

So it was a rather nice surprise to find the very same point made by Mr Guy Kawasaki in his latest book ‘Enchantment’. He was kind enough to send me a review copy, however the US post wasn’t kind enough to deliver it in time to review the book. Still I am reading it because he seems a very nice man and it’s a free book he trusted me with.

He talks about the example of Zappos, the online shoe retailer but you can see very much the same point at large ion the business model of many online brands especially the fantastic Net A Porter. Net a Porter (valued at its sale to Richemont last year at £350m) depends on a model of trust to run its business. Customers trust Net A Porter that they can return they goods free (they even send DHL round to pick the unwanted garments up) and get a refund in full if they are not suitable in any way, and Net a Porter trust their customers not to wear them once to the British Television Advertising Awards and then return them the next day. And the business model can cope with the odd person that takes the piss because that’s life isn’t it.

But can you imagine talking to a bank or insurance client about the need to show that they trust their customers by assuming that people are basically good and decent? And that they need to live with the consequences of the naughty ones and they look at you as if you have just suggested you have regular sex with animals.

I’m sorry but I don’t give a shit about the people who do want to launder money, defraud my bank or make false claims on their insurance. I don’t want to and I want to be treated that way, as a customer and not a threat. Until the day that brands and the businesses that own them are prepared to trust their customers then they do not deserve our trust.

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3 Replies to “A question of trust”

  1. And worse than this, not only do they not trust us to be who we say we are and live where we say we do, they make us jump through hoops to prove it. They invariably refuse to prioritise building a simple, cheap electronic interface with Experian to verify in approximately 3 seconds our name and address, but would far rather we sent in utility bills, certified passport copies and the like, all under the pretence of ‘oh we have to do this, the regulators say so’. If they want to be sure we are who we say they are, why do they not accept the responsibility and effort to prove it?

  2. can we make a banking exception for Smile please? They treat me like a human being, have helpful, educated real live people at the end of their phones, don’t expect me to remember a 21 string encryption code to logon, seem to assume I’m honest and the one time (in 10+ years) they made a mistake, they sent a sorry note and a bottle of wine.

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