Elements of Trust

Think for a moment about the real-world relationships you have, and hopefully enjoy. What has made them stand the test of time?

Is it simply a matter of convenience? Has there been some "shared" experience previously? Or, has there been the consistent belief that the other person will be a reliable and truthful partner (there when you need them and never misleading you for their own personal benefit); a partner whose abilities and strengths you derive value from? That's what trust really is, and it's the only way to establish the loyalty that individuals and, of course, businesses need to thrive.

You can't earn loyalty without working for it however. Fortunately, often a reminder of what it takes to build trust - as well as some encouragement to do so - is all that is needed to experience greater support and allegiance from those around you (in the real as well as the virtual world in the case of your business customers) and set you on a course for success. And when you have the other party's loyalty - be they friend, spouse, colleague or client - the rewards of that relationship (and the fruits of that trust) begin to emerge.

But how do you, how will your brand, build trust in the first place? Isn't there some magical software solution that can be deployed? Unfortunately, there isn't - at least not that I know of (although I'll keep an eye out) - but building trust over time needn't be complex. Simply be there when you're needed, be honest to a fault and maintain some integrity along the way and you'll soon enjoy the loyalty you have begun to establish.

The recent downtime suffered by popular Web hosting providers (see this issue's Web Hosting Panel on page 38) offers up an ideal case study on building trust and loyalty. If those companies had misled their users about the cause (or worse, didn't address the issue at all) they would have far fewer customers in the long run.

So how can your enterprise be more trustworthy in the eyes of consumers, earn more loyalty and reap the great digital rewards? Focus on being a reliable and honest partner.

Reliability: Perhaps the most important element in building trust is simply being reliable. Do what you say and honor your promises (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant). If 100 percent uptime is your promise, the expectation is 100 percent uptime. Any deviation from that promised reliability will be seen as an affront. A sense of trust can quickly be fractured, even at the slightest misstep. Too many fractures in the foundation of a relationship, too many mistakes, and everything will come crumbling down. There are instances when people, as well as hosting companies, may fall short on this reliability promise and put loyalty in jeopardy. Enter honesty.

Honesty: It's not enough to just show up and do what you promised though. And even if you do, any perceived reliability can be weakened by a failure in being honest. So just tell the truth, even if it means not being protective of the other's expectations or just isn't a pleasant message to hear. While you may not be loved, you'll at least be appreciated. Honesty, speaking from the heart, is grounds enough for others to begin trusting you.

To be truly honest requires absolute openness; something that doesn't always come easily to everyone (or every company). Openness means intentionally volunteering information, showing you have nothing to hide. It means not omitting the details. When relationships fail, it's often because someone hasn't been as transparent as the other party wishes. What would happen if those hosting companies admitted they were the victim of a coordinated attack, or that an intern actually unplugged the server? They might elicit some sympathy or there might be some blowback from customers, but at least they'd know the truth - a stepping stone to trust.

Loyalty is the key to greater profits. When you have it, and granted it takes a fair amount of work to build a sufficient amount, you will find your brand is on the path to success.