Are 21st century businesses operating under the perception that they can no longer be trusted? Has social media and the ubiquitous online connectivity that allows each of us to share opinions and experiences, made it impossible for traditional businesses to gain our trust by simply telling us that they can be trusted?
These are the questions that are at the very core of our modern business, private and public life. Trust has become key not because we suddenly realized that we need it. In truth it has always been at the core of every relational transaction we have ever made. No, it has suddenly become important because, like oxygen, trust is most evident by its absence.
Volkswagen, to use a very public example, started 2015 being at the top of the global automotive makers ranks and, thanks to their being caught lying about the emissions of their cars, ended the year by posting a $1.9 billion third-quarter net loss and issuing a full-year profit warning. By losing the trust of its customers Volkswagen lost its market share and began to lose sales.
So, what’s really changed? Why are we so hard to please all of a sudden? The truth isn’t that we are hard to please. As customers we want from companies today what we have always wanted: great products, great service and a reasonable price. What has changed is the fabric within which all this now takes place.
Thanks to social media there is now greater transparency and easier opinion sharing. When Volkswagen lost the trust of consumers worldwide few really stopped to think about the technicalities involved or the degree of lying to the public. But what did impress everyone was the depth of the deception, the number of vehicles involved and the amount of money Volkswagen stood to make.
Trust was lost because a company that appeared to provide a great product, great service at a reasonable price was revealed to be a money-grabbing cheat, obsessed with bottom line gains. That kind of company is unlikely to really care about its customers which is really the problem and the true reason Volkswagen lost the trust of its customer base.
Trust then is now more important than ever because we can see just how much it has been abused, as a notion, in the past. We can see when a company tries to pull the wool over our eyes, and we know that the moment someone says “trust me” and expects us to automatically do so, it is unlikely that they will engage in any kind of activity that will engender any kind of trust.
Thank you for listening.
Learn all you need to know about how Trust is created, lost and regained.