We all know that there are many intangibles that influence success, but I’ve found that one of the most important is trust.
Stephen Covey, Jr. just started his nationwide tour this week here in Denver. He’s the son of Stephen Covey of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” fame, and is headed toward the same success. The speaking tour is built around his book “The Speed of Trust”. As I listened to a promotional radio interview this morning, there were some key elements that I was reminded of that are so important in everyday life, and more specifically in how to build successful business relationships. Some of the high points from the interview:
- Earning the trust of your client comes from offering value, keeping your word, and being responsive.
- Lack of trust is like a ‘tax’ on the business relationship. Speed decreases and cost increases due to the additional justification and due diligence that is required to compensate for the lack of trust.
- Everything is easier with trust – this is why testimonials are so important to get your foot in the door.
- Long-term clients are created when you build and maintain that trust.
A personal example that I immediately thought of is something that I am still amazed by today. It has to do with a FedEx package and their promise to deliver when they committed. Last Christmas I procrastinated and ordered the perfect gift for my daughter online. Although I was cutting it close, FedEx promised it would be delivered by Christmas Eve. That’s all I needed! Well, the day came, all the other packages were under the tree, and the one key present still had not arrived by noon, 3:00 pm, then 6:00 pm. As you can imagine, I pretty much gave up. We went on with our family’s traditional celebration. But to my complete surprise, the FedEx truck pulled up at 9:00 pm with the package! Now I know the landslide of deliveries that FedEx has during the holidays, so I was willing to cut them some slack. However, I’m now an even bigger fan. This epitomizes how long-term customer loyalty often is won in the save-the-day moments like these, where our trust is rewarded with action.
Now something more relevant. In recent blog posts in both January and February we talked about the importance of choosing the right partner. This of course is closely tied to a foundation of trust. One of our key partners had a big problem in which our trusted partnership successfully enabled us to help them in a big way. On the night of February 7, 2008, an explosion and fire completely destroyed Imperial Sugar’s Savannah packaging facility, taking 14 lives and 60% of Imperial’s production capacity with it. The facility was offline for nearly 18 months.
Imperial needed immediate insight into how many customers it could serve with its available inventory. We worked hand-in-hand with them to ensure that the forecasting software and data were properly configured so that they had an accurate overview by product line. This allowed them to uphold their “availability to promise” because everyone from production to sales could see, in real time, what could be delivered. Speed was required, and an established, trusted partnership was a critical component to their success, as they later stated in CIO Magazine, “Supply Chain Management to the Rescue”.
I can’t finish a post on trust without referencing the person we learned about in grade school who knows a little bit about honesty–Abraham Lincoln. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “The truth is your best friend”. How true and how important it is in successful business relationships.