Yet another trip. Yet another lost bag.
I am increasingly aware of the challenges businesses face in earning real trust, and this week I was left (without a change of clothes) to ponder yet again just what is going wrong in this regard. My airline can’t get me and my luggage to the same place at the same time. My car has a mind of its own about braking and acceleration. My bank sees the issuance of credit cards as an opportunity to get in my pocket for more fees. Can the fall of capitalism be far behind?
I used to feed empowered by Tweeting about such things or writing a letter to the president of the offending company, but I’m just getting weary and resigned to a more old-Soviet-style capitalism (or is that socialism?). You know: learn your bag isn’t where you are; go find ”the line;” trudge up to a counter to be confronted by a disinterested clerk…things we used to poke fun at Eastern Bloc countries about.
So, in a triumph of form over substance via technology, I can now be told that my bag is resting comfortably in a plane’s belly in Chicago (when I am in Phoenix) and that the fix for my accelerator can be made in two months, but I’ll have to make a separate appointment for the fuel line problem that could cause a fire to occur at any time. And wait… the good news is that I can make the appointments online!
Trust is getting lost the deeper we move into the ersatz “connectedness” of the social media world. The importance of the things that can’t be seen from the ticket line when we are conducting our transactions — the intangibles – are even more key to differentiating these days, but peace of mind and confidence and trust and seem to slip farther away for many companies, even as they increase attempts to connect to their audiences.
Edelman’s research for the Trust Barometer seems to disagree with this on the surface, but amidst what the research touted as an increase in trust recently (who could forget 2009?), there was this killer point: 70 percent say that businesses will revert to old, bad habits once the crisis is over. As my grandfather used to say of a neighbor who betrayed trust between outpourings of neighborliness, “I trust that man about as far as I can throw him.”
Here’s the plea (and I’m looking in the mirror on this one). Let’s all of us who are involved in marketing soon get over the shiny object of social media. We have created a way to hear customer feedback, and we have used it to solve problems. We have created communities around products and services. These are only good things if they contribute to genuine, solid change instead of the veneer of change.
The trust veneer has developed some significant dings. People are thinking that we can’t solve the issues we face. They are marching in the streets to protest programs that deliver healthcare to uninsured fellow citizens. They are saying that government should take control of executive salaries. They are worried that their financial advisors are getting rich at their expense. Whether we work for Obama or for Ms. Smith on Main Street, the importance of building and maintaining trust has never been greater.
Matthew May, author of In Pursuit of Elegance – Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, wrote a good post on the subject recently, offering a roadmap for moving from the rational to the emotional in people with whom we are trying to engage beyond the veneer. He suggests zeroing in on several questions: “Will this waste my money?” (economic); “Will this work reliably well?” (functional); “What will others think of me?” (social); “Will this somehow be painful?” (physical), and ”Will I think poorly of myself?” (emotional).
Putting yourself into the minds of others with these questions (and keeping them in mind for yourself) will go a long way toward improving real trust by true engagement. These are the heartfelt questions not often articulated, but always in mind as people relate to one another. Make it your business to answer them for your customers and others with whom you want trusting relationships.