I recently participated in a webinar run by Stephen Covey around the impact that Trust can have internally and externally in your business. He paints a compelling picture with his examples.
One involves a coffee and muffin vendor who doubles his business by setting out a change basket (with his own money in it) at the end of his counter. He had noticed that he was losing customers due to the long lines in the morning which were primarily caused by the slow payment process (taking money / giving change). So he put out the change basket, took / fulfilled the orders and allowed his customers to make their on change. He handled twice the number of transactions and his customers appreciated the trust he had given them.
But yesteray I actually heard another example of this dynamic on NPR. In a incredibly poor section of a city in India (3 square miles hold 500,000 people), the local CocaCola bottler was working through ways to increase their sales (whether you think this is appropriate or now, watch what happens). Traditionally, the Coke vendors stored the drinks behind the counter and required all customers to order them personally. One of the local sales guys convinces some of the Coke vendors to put a cooler outside the front door of their establishment allowing all customers access to review their options and pick their own drink. As in the example above, sales of drinks have doubled (10 fold in one case), transforming many of these vendor's business success. Their customers tell them that they are proud that they can be trusted.
Frankly I think most of us find this idea of trust with our clients to be revolutionary. And certainly scary.
I remember when some companies figured out they could give a money-back guarentee without risking much at all; and yes, most of us now know that there is no real benefit to us as customers. Its a huge hassle to deal with any vendor whose product doesn't work properly; never mind the cost of the product.
But that's not what is being offered here: these examples are saying that the business trusts the customer to protect the business's income if the customer gets appropriate trust upfront.
There's the pinch: many really don't trust their clients enough to allow the clients to determine what services should be provided (we often think we know better what our clients need), how they should be delivered (it might require our organizations/practices to change or evolve) and what compensation is deserved.
But its really worse that that: we really don't want to transform our business relationships, we just want to get paid more for being historically relevant. And for most, we will only consider change once we are in so much pain that we have no choice (ergo the 'burning platform' scenario).
OK, so read those two examples above and give yourself a moment to wonder if there is a scenario where trusting your clients could provide you with such a distinctive relationship that your clients would think differently about themselves and the business relationship because of the way you treat them . . .from the very start. Some very interesting math indeed (yeah I said indeed).