Forget "Recommended By"...Is Building Trust a More Important Metric?

Robin Barnwell

Building trust is more fundamental than the "recommended" metric used in Net Promoter Score, says columnist Robin Barnwell. Afterall, would you continue to do business with a company you did not trust?

I read a lot of our customer’s feedback, pages and pages of comments and thoughts. I use this to align our processes and improve our customer experience.

When I read comments from people who think highly of us a single word appears repeatedly – Responsive and its visa-a-versa for those where we could do better – Unresponsive. I needed to better understand this and my research took me to the work of customer consultancy Deep-Insight and their work on Trust.

They described the development of trust in three simple components:

Component #1: Is the way you interact with people. People look for two things:

  • Responsiveness – what I was regularly reading in the feedback
  • Reliability – consistently delivering the goods

Component #2: Is found in your core behaviours, people look for three things:

  • Honesty
  • Fairness
  • Respect

Component #3: Is you must commit to do these all of the time. It’s in consistently seeing these at every single encounter that you will win trust.

Now a common customer measure used in business is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). It’s a simple measure based on the question, "How likely is it that you would recommend [Company X] to a friend or colleague?" With an 11 point scale with 0-6 unhappy customers, 7-8 neutral and 9-10 happy. Becoming recommended is the ultimate accolade.

But I think building trust is more fundamental than the "recommended" metric. It’s an emotional response that aggregates the whole customer experience. Would you continue to do business if you did not have trust? How would you approach someone in the workplace who you did not trust? Would you recommend if you didn’t trust? Without trust you won’t gain loyalty, competitive advantage and becoming most recommended.

I would suggest a superior measure that works equally with clients and staff would be "Do you Trust [Company X]/[Manager Y]?"

Trust is the output metric, the response to how you have dealt with people. Using the Y=f(X) approach, the X inputs are defined (above) and provide clarity on what is required to win trust. The skill is to develop these into your brand promise, your customer experience, and your employee engagement. What should people expect from you in terms of honesty, responsiveness, integrity?

In summary, it’s not rocket science. These are the handful of things you need to do consistently well to win trust. They are all common sense. Yet businesses get lost in all kinds of internal complexity, bureaucracy and opaqueness and lose sight of these simple principles. Keep it simple.