I attended a tremendous seminar on “Earning Trust” recently. Seminar speakers made the point that the past two years have been transformative for us as marketers, consumers and employees. The economic upheaval has certainly touched us all. But has it changed us?
In fact, I believe the past two years has presented us as marketers with what will become one of our biggest challenges – re-establishing and re-building trust. We’ve been hit with re-defining moments at every turn – the Great Recession, the Gulf oil spill, Wall Street financial/foreclosure crises, even the Cuyahoga County government scandals here at home. Are the cars we buy safe to drive? Is this new drug safe? Can I believe my CEO when he says our jobs are safe?
Simply put, trust is the front door for business. You can’t make a sale unless the consumer trusts your company and its products. And you can’t expect your employees to perform unless they trust the company to treat them right, and to treat their customers right.
While we intuitively feel that trust has taken a hit (we all have that sixth sense as effective marketers!), survey data bears this out. A study by Right Management in May, 2010 showed that only 20% of 4000 U. S. employees in the U. S. said they always trusted their managers to make the best decisions. Think about that. (The next time your CEO is about to give a speech to company employees, lean over and say, “Don’t be nervous. Remember, only one in five employees here today is likely to believe what you say!”)
Why does trust in the workplace matter? Forget soft concepts of altruism; let’s just look at financial payback. A 2010 survey of 211 companies by Interaction Associates found that companies in the top 10% of its Trust Index showed a price/earnings ratio 28.5% higher than those in the bottom 10%.
Going forward, this will be a time when employees and customers watch how companies and their leaders act as much as by what they say. And as marketers, it’s our charge, our mission, to lead this march. That’s tough duty, but since we’re the only ones at the table – not manufacturing, operations, finance, engineering — charged with the responsibility for listening, it’s our responsibility to make sure our executive leaders are truly hearing what customers and employees have to say. Honesty and authenticity will be key values driving business going forward, not just our usual value-proposition, features-and-benefits discussion. Is your organization up to those standards?