Several years ago I heard a story about a shoe repair shop from one of their long-time customers. It’s a small business tale about trust with a twist that might surprise you. Like many businesses, this shoe repair shop was built on a self-service model. That model was necessary because the sole proprietor did his cobbling at night; during the day he held down a full-time job as an employee of another company. His customers left their shoes for repair in a converted newspaper vending machine located on his front porch. Shoes that were ready for pick-up as well as the money folder were also in the machine. Yes, I said the money folder. Customers dropped off and picked up their shoes and also left their payment. He never came up short, of money or shoes.
In the last few years there has been plenty of material written about earning customer trust. However; you don’t see much written about trusting the customer. Can you earn trust without giving it? For the cobbler’s customers in that rural community it appears a key to giving trust was getting it first.
Today we would describe that type of business climate as “radical trust.” It’s a state of trust where parties on both sides of a transaction fully recognize the greater benefits of reciprocal good faith. The cobbler let his customers into his inner circle by trusting that he would get paid for his work. He believed that people were inherently good and let the self-policing reputation-based honor system work.
I suspect for many businesses it would be a scary thought to implicitly trust their customers. And yet, without trust most relationships will not move forward. I often think of trust through the following formula:
Trust = (Rapport x Credibility) / Risk
Actions that help develop rapport and credibility, while at the same time reducing risk, will build long-lasting, trust-based relationships. In marketing, Collin Douma describes the notion of radical trust as a key mindset required for marketers and advertisers to enter the social media marketing space. In his opinion, the tide has turned and now marketers must radically trust the consumer in order to build the brand.
Trust is the real currency in the social economy. Does your company trust the customer? Small businesses typically produce nearly half of the U.S. private nonfarm GDP. You can’t help but feel that radical trust is an important part of what holds our economy together.