To paraphrase Warren Buffet, the secret to good customer relationships is the same as the secret to any good marriage: low expectations.
But customer expectations with respect to trust are now rising, and technology is the culprit, driving a dramatic increase in the speed and volume of interaction. Whenever two people interact – either face to face or online – one of the most important subtexts of that interaction is trust. If we don’t trust each other, any interaction between us just won’t be very efficient. We might even have to call a lawyer or an accountant to provide security against being deceived or cheated. Trust greatly improves the speed and efficiency of interacting, so the more interacting we do, the more trust we come to expect from others, including the businesses we buy from.
If you’re over 40, you’ve already witnessed an increase in your own personal expectations of trustworthiness in others. When cell phones first became generally available, for instance, remember how careful you were not to give out your number to just anyone? You didn’t want some rapacious business bombarding you with unsolicited phone calls, using up your program minutes trying to sell you things. The same caution applied, initially, to e-mail addresses.
Today, of course, we no longer fear this kind of behavior from businesses (at least, not from “legitimate” businesses). We put our e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers on our business cards now, and include them in articles and presentations for public consumption, distributing them just as widely as we do our postal addresses or business phone numbers. And companies refrain from abusing this information at least partly because they would be found out. Even if there were no regulatory penalty at all, to be found abusing any person’s contact details would immediately tarnish a company’s reputation.
As interaction continues to increase in speed and volume, watch for other signs that customer expectations for trust are rising. Over time, customers will be holding businesses to an entirely new and tougher standard when it comes to watching out for customer interests.