The ties that bind

From the April 2023 print edition

I give a lot of trust to my employees and customers – more than many others in my position would. I am a firm believer in the notion that trust builds the best revenue streams, the best brands, and is a strong pathway for year-over-year growth for an organization, both internally and externally.

James Kenny is customer collaboration manager with Agropur.

Many people experience difficulty with giving trust freely to people. More often than not, this is because they harbour a fear of loss. When you trust someone, especially staff or customers, they might make mistakes. If the fear of losing in the short term has a hold on someone, and they put that fear in the driver’s seat, it’s tough for that person to let go and allow others to make critical decisions. Such people end up micromanaging the every action of others.

However, building trust and giving it out freely are both extraordinarily important parts of the greater equation when it comes to dealing with your team and building common ground with your customers.

How can we build and form trust? This can be a difficult question to answer. Often, the best way to build trust with an employee or with customers is to align yourself with their point of view. Ask yourself, ‘does their point of view match my own?’ If you express what is truly your authentic point of view and disagree with some individuals, you might jeopardize relationships within your workplace or with your customers. This can be further detrimental by impacting your growth.

However, I understand the point of view of those who like to challenge the status quo of their employees and customers if it means accomplishing their goals around personal or corporate growth. However, expressing your opinions, respectfully and correctly, will help you more and allow you to win big in the long run.

An important building block
One example of building a form of trust is asking periodically for feedback on how to improve, then acting accordingly on that feedback. Customers are willing to trust suppliers that they have a strong relationship with and who believe that the customer matters. One of the best ways that a supplier lives up to that expectation is by demonstrating that feedback is an important building block of the foundation for both organizations improving, growing, and accelerating together.

A customer contributing in this way is important not only because it improves your relationship but your operations as well. I know that bringing up such an improvement process can strike a chord, and if you have more than one customer it could mean raising a point or issue that is brought up repeatedly. This is actually the prefect opportunity to do something about it. It is an excellent way to demonstrate that your relationship is not a one-way street. It helps develop trust by letting your customer know you are willing to hear them out.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a lot of leaders who call on customers struggle to allow the people they work alongside the freedom to win or lose based on the decisions they make. But allowing people to explore outside their normal pattern is the ultimate growth platform. It allows them to have that blank slate to express themselves. You can then get a transparent read on who they are and what they can accomplish.

I tell my team often that I trust them unreservedly and will continue to do so until something happens that makes me retract that trust. I don’t believe that trust is always earned. Before all else, I believe that trust is given. Who am I to say they need to earn it?

Strong relationships
By starting with this blank slate, you are able to build trust. This can create strong relationships with a customer. It can help you to illustrate your message by making it clear that you are there to help their business grow and flourish in this post-COVID-19 environment.

It can help them solve problems in the process.

You can build value and maintain customer trust by upholding this principle when interacting with your team. It can help the customer solve problems by exemplifying excellent customer service.

The key factor is this: not every customer is the same and there will be unique headwinds along the way. However, by adapting and evaluating each situation internally and externally, trust within relationships will create a seamless workflow.