How much do you trust those you do business with?

I’ve talked a lot about delivering to expectations, but this is something different. This is about trust and integrity.

The fact is that society only functions well when people are able to trust each other. Not only on a transactional level, but also at the personal relationship level. Let me give you an example.

We’ve signed a contract which says what I’ll deliver to you and when, and it says how much you’ll pay me and when. A normal sort of customer-supplier relationship.

But now I’ve discovered that things are going awry, and I’m not going to be able to deliver as promised. Perhaps parts are stuck on a ship in the Pacific, or someone on my team is behind schedule, or we’ve discovered faults in manufacturing.

I’m at a point where my integrity is tested. The natural tendency is to cover things up, work harder, and hope like heck that things will get better. That can work – maybe – but the risk is going up.

So how should I interact with you, my customer? First, it’s about actually having the difficult conversation and admitting fault.

Key phrases are:

  • “I’m sorry”
  • “I apologize”
  • “I wanted to give you a heads-up before things really turn critical for you”
  • “We’re working to fix the problem”
  • “How can I help reduce the negative impact for you?”

Notice that it’s personal. It’s vulnerable. You’re taking a risk.

And that’s exactly why it helps to build trust. Because we all have failures and mistakes which impact others.

Start by thinking of how you would treat your best friend – someone who already trusts you – if you had to admit failure.