When it comes to making a buying decision, where does trust rate as a criterion? A recent Wall Street

Journal interview with a couple of business consultants tried to address the question using the travails

of United Airlines as an example of a company that has lost public trust. The downturn in business for

United because of poor customer experiences is a strong indicator that there is a link between trust and

business—even when the traveling public has relatively few choices.


That is a reasonable construct no one will argue with, however, the subsequent comments challenged

my viewpoint. One interviewee in the article stated that his research revealed that family business is

“twice as trusted as big public companies”. However, I can tell you that in our research for the last 20

years, we have evidence that being a “family business’ is not a high buying criteria. So, you might say,

yes, I think a family business may have more integrity, but can they “ship it on time and in full all of the

time”? The buying criteria tends to be the latter. Trust may be viewed as higher for mid-market

companies but meeting customer’s immediate needs rank even higher in today’s environment. That’s

not to say family businesses cannot meet those needs, but they shouldn’t rely on the family business



It is good news for family businesses that they are regarded with high trust. However, it is only good

news if we are making a buying decision solely upon “trust”, unfortunately that is rarely the case.

A company, large or small, l can only build and maintain that trust by delivering that which the customer

needs and as promised. If Jones & Son can do it better than GE, then trust goes to them. Vice versa also

applies but trust is built and maintained not on the size or origin of the company but rather the ability to

consistently meet customer demands.


Spoiler Alert: Telling or expecting customers to buy “trust” from your company is too vague a promise.

Do customers trust you to deliver on time? Do they trust you are ethical? Do they trust you to honor

guarantees? Do they trust their order will be damage free? Or, the flip side is how some customers

have come to trust the airlines? We often trust them to be late, lose our bags, pack us into small seats?

Trust today has become an expectation that a company will behave a certain way. Which way have you

committed to? How do you hold your team accountable for those things? Trust is fleeting. Measure

and manage those things most highly valued by your customer.

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