Key to a Customer Service Culture

In a customer service culture, trust is of the upmost importance in the customer and employee relationship. In the perfect setting, management must trust employees, employees must trust management, and the customer must trust the company. This is the “Three Legged Stool” theory in action. For those not familiar with this concept it is simple. If you have a three legged stool and one of the legs is taken away, the stool falls over. If any one of these groups mistrusts any of the others, there is no chance for customer loyalty.

So, what is mistrust? A lie, of course, would cause mistrust, but this is more about confidence. Can people count on people? Does the system always work, or is there doubt, even the smallest amount, that something will go wrong?

From the customers’ viewpoint, is there confidence in the information or the service they get from someone at the company? Do they trust the company can do a good job? Do they trust that the value is there? And, of course, do they trust the integrity of the company?

From the managers’ viewpoint, is there confidence – or trust – that the employees will do a good job?

From the employees’ viewpoint, do they believe their managers trust them?

Years ago I worked at an auto parts store. I didn’t know all that much about auto parts, but after a short period of time the owner trusted me enough to leave town for a weekend and put me in charge. Sure, I made mistakes, but he trusted me to use my best judgment. It was an incredible learning experience, not to mention a confidence booster. He took advantage of my mistakes and turned them into learning opportunities, so that I would do it right the next time. Then he trusted me enough to leave again.

John Venhuizen, Ace Hardware’s CEO summed it up well in an interview: “Every time a customer walks through our doors, that customer is trusting our associates (employees) to help them to solve a problem, and to buy the right product. Possibly, that solution we come up with involves the home where their kids sleep every night. Now, whenever you accept advice from someone about what you’re supposed to do in order to protect and take care of your home, that’s a significant leap of faith. That means the level of trust and emotional connection that associate needs to be able to build up with the customer is huge. By the same token, the trust and emotional connection the store owner builds up with the associates has to be pretty huge too. So, we know that in order to win that high level of trust with the consumer, we have to establish a trusting relationship with the employee first.”

In the perfect business relationship, trust abounds. Not just between the customer and the company, but also inside of the company. It enhances the customer experience. It enhances the employee experience. In business, trust is a must!

NOTE: This article is a modified excerpt from Shep Hyken’s upcoming book Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet, which appears in stores everywhere in September 2013. Preorder the book and get valuable extras at www.AmazeEveryCustomer.com.