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Business loyalty

The Master Key to Earning Fiercely Loyal Employees and Clients

Let’s jump right into some not-so-exciting news:

Americans are less confident today in our institutions, governments, businesses, and news than a year ago. (Gallup – Annual Measure of Public Trust).

For large tech companies, confidence decreased by 3% from 21% to 22% and remained down in 2023.

confidence stats 23

A Loss for Tech as an Industry is a Loss for All of Us Collectively

As an industry – a decline in big tech is a decline for all of us.

When confidence in the tech space goes down, there is an erosion of trust. And these people, these Americans referenced in the survey, are closer to you than you think. 

They are not random distant people from somewhere else. They are our neighbors, customers, and employees.

So how can we fix this problem or prevent it from becoming worse? Because yes, I want you to still be able to bring on new customers a few years from now. When customers are burnt, that’s when the “rebranding” and the acquisitions start.

And, of course, I want you to be able to attract and keep top sales talent today and tomorrow. When employees feel burnt, well, it makes attracting talent difficult and keeping talent even worse. 

Glassdoor is littered with employers who will struggle to hire top people.

And I don’t want that for you! But the answers are somewhat simple yet difficult to pull off.

The Large ‘Can’t Fail’ Company That Loses Customers One Transaction at a Time

But first, a story about trust erosion and its long-term impacts.

Many years ago, I purchased phone service through a major large and WELL KNOWN carrier. I asked the salesperson if my plan was unlimited long-distance, and he said yes. I signed up, and my order went into their system in a matter of minutes.

Thirty days or so later, when it came time to rip open my bill ( yes, it was a paper bill sent in the mail), I noticed they charged me for every single area code that was not a 510 number.

I was charged for 650, 415 numbers, and even 408 area codes. Here in the Bay Area, these area codes aren’t thought about as long distance. 

And to be charged for an area code that is in your own backyard seemed, well, unheard of!

And don’t worry. They charged me for the 212s, the 480s, and the 310s too. As a headhunter, it’s no secret that I spend a lot of time on my phone. So let’s say this was no small amount of charges.

The Foundational Pillar of Customer Confidence Shattered in One Short Conversation

My much younger self, though, was not worried.

I had confidence in the large carrier and was confident they’d set things right. I had very little trouble sleeping that night and spent almost no time worrying about the monster phone bill. 

I felt certain this company would correct the error, and this would be resolved as quickly as it was set up.

After all, I was dealing with a WELL-KNOWN and “reputable” large company!

So when I called to discuss what I thought must clearly be a miscommunication, they were adamant that I had not signed up for unlimited long-distance.

And no, there was no listening to the tapes in the archive to see who was right or wrong. A recording of the purchase call conveniently –did not exist. We relied on whatever box the agent of the hour checked that day in the system, and that’s all there was to it.

It was their checked box against what I remembered explicitly asking for.

And surprisingly to me, they picked the checked box!

As you might guess, I was surprised and fuming mad. Back then, when I got stressed, I reverted to cutting my hair or biting my nails. I had no scissors at my desk that day, so I nibbled away!

The Trust Destroying Check-Box Error Not Worth Correcting

Going into the situation, I believed this company would correct the error, and we’d move on.

I felt they were a company that had good intentions. Extreme Trust by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers list this as one of the prime building blocks of trust. My experience says they are indeed correct!

Facing the ginormous phone bill and a company unwilling to budge, I ended the relationship with this company and swore off this org for life, except for one thing.

I kept my cell phone with them because, back in those days, changing a cell phone number was a real pain in the tushy. And yes, I’m Gen X and say cell phone. This idea of porting over a number –well, it wasn’t happening.

So for ten years or longer, I dealt with the last tie I had to this company and had not one single problem with this company or the phone.

Until the day I tried to order a new phone.

I placed the order and a few days later received an email outlining the actual charges I could expect for the new purchase. And as you might imagine, the price I was verbally quoted was not the price I received in the follow-up email. And if you’re wondering if the emailed follow-up price was less….well, it was not!

So, I didn’t get upset or angry this time. I sent the new phone back the next day, unopened and in the original box it was shipped in. It seemed easy enough to me!

Even Worse Outcomes One Decade Later

I sent the phone back because when I inquired about the jump in monthly service charges, the rep of the hour said she could not give me my current service rates on the new phone.

Changing the phone meant changing the rates, and there was nothing they could do about it.

And they made returning the phone a complete nightmare.

And not in the way you might think. Getting the phone back to them, well, that part was easy. I used the local post office. And yes, they still exist.

My local postal worker is cranky as ever, but he’s been working there for over a decade, and I think we’re finally starting to build a connection.

Anyway, the issue was having them acknowledge or “process” the return of the phone. That was another matter altogether!

Fast to Invoice Yet So Slow to Pay

I won’t bore you with the blow-by-blow details, but let’s look at a quick recap of their behavior.

It took 24 hours to process the shipping of a new phone. This is great and wonderful! However, it took 56 days for the same company to acknowledge or “process” the return after physically receiving the unopened phone.

I had to carry the credit card charge of $1,000 for 56 days while they waited to process the refund and “credit me back” for the phone.

Yes, 56 days! Yes, credit back!

I have since changed mobile carriers and will never do business with this company again.

And I feel confident they don’t have good intentions.

Bowl of lemons with three lemons outside of the bowl.

Soured on a Large Scale

Today, this particular carrier has a tough time getting any business from my entire community.

They come knocking door to door and try to get us to use their fiber lines, internet, long-distance, phone lines, anything. But no matter what kind of offer they put in front of us, no matter the prices, there are no takers.

And it’s because they have a reputation as the kind of company that doesn’t do the right thing for their customers.

And that’s putting it nicely. Financially, this company’s stock price 2Xd since I first used them over a decade ago. Others in their space have done 3-4X.

But for now, let’s look at the question most people ask, whether as a sales rep or a sales leader, or a CEO.

This question is, “How do I build trust?” Trust, you see, is the foundation of all sales. No trust, no sale. And since you’re in tech, of course, we have to add the word “faster.” Because we all know we are the kind of people who want everything faster. (Speed and the value of speed may be one of the software industry’s best-understood qualities.)

Answering the Easy Question

So, the problem begins with the question most of us ask. “How do I build trust faster?”

Yet, the real question is, “How do I become more trustworthy, and how do I continuously demonstrate my trustworthiness over time?”

And now, the qualities that demonstrate trust follow. Although I know you already know what they are:

  • Do what you say you will.
  • Be reliable and consistent. These traits work together.
  • Show up for others in every way you can.
  • Don’t hide behind gimmickry, lies, obfuscate facts, or practice evasiveness.
  • Deliver on your promises. Always.
  • Acknowledge others as humans, people who make mistakes, who are fallible like you, and don’t treat people like robots or incompetent problems.
  • Be prepared to discuss flaws, imperfections, warts, and weak areas.

Massive Improvement Awaits in the Unleveraged: Data Lakes, Analytics, and AI Not Required

So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a data lake to figure out what trust looks like.

It’s something we have all experienced. In fact, these standards are old, perhaps even dusty. Not new in any way, not even a whisper of a secret, or even very mysterious or subtle. But achieving higher levels of trust may take some improvements in your company culture.

And culture seems to be a struggle for most of us.

It’s almost an annoyance, like something that should be taken care of once and for all by the HR department, so we can all just get on with it. In fact, I think culture is one of the most misunderstood, overused, and under-leveraged concepts in the corporate lexicon.

But for now, since we’re talking about trust, ask yourself if you are participating in some of these not-uncommon industry normish-behaviors.

Do you feel these methods are trust-enhancing or trust-busting?

Trust Enhancing or Trust Busting?

  1. Re-adding the unsubscribed list to your current marketing list after a certain amount of time as determined by the sender.
  2. Pressuring customers to sign agreements due to quota deadlines.
  3. Backdating customer contracts. (If you are doing this for a public company, rethink your life! This is a pretty serious offense, which may include jail time.)
  4. Sending people to a buy now button and a purchase immediately hits the credit card. In other words, there is no chance to review the cart, no order review, and your card is simply charged in one click.
  5. Telling potential customers that your solutions do something they simply don’t. This could be due to poor product training/knowledge or even deal pressure. Either way, it looks bad to your customers.
  6. Getting auto-renewed without notice/warning. Today, this won’t fly legally in some states. (Example: Amendments to California’s Automatic Renewal Law took effect on July 1, 2022. In addition to existing requirements, businesses now must provide a notice before a trial period ends that tells the consumer the term will automatically renew and how to cancel. The amendments also set requirements for the availability of “immediate” cancellation online. Source: American Bar Association:

Fighting With the Nature of Today’s Fast Money

I’m sure you can think of others.

I know I can, but I’m not here to start shaming anyone. But every business has to ask themselves if sales today at the expense of sales tomorrow are indeed worth the price.

When you factor in the laws of nature, most notice plenty of rewards undoubtedly go to those who win in the moment.

And further, consider some of us won’t be around to see tomorrow’s payoffs.

This is just reality. So, the tendency here is to overvalue today and undervalue tomorrow. This is the human default mode. And we all know the pressures here are very real.

So the real question is, what kind of leader will YOU choose to be?

When trust erodes on the macro level, it’s a real opportunity to step up and leverage this area of your business. Shore up any misalignments and earn more profits by attracting loyal customers and employees.

In sales and probably in life, one thing I know is that trust is the doorway to everything.

Want to get more clients? Build trust.

Want to keep your top people? Build trust.

Want to spend less money on client acquisition? Build trust.

Want to drive more employee and client referrals? Build trust

Want to build a company people want to devote their lives to? Build trust.

Want to lessen the pressures of closing sales today? You don’t need a fancy sales consultant for this one. Hire top salespeople who religiously build pipeline.