Customer Trust is Built in Years but Lost in an Instant

By June 1, 2016 March 19th, 2019 Evolve Insights

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on April 12th 2016

As customers there are those service providers we trust dearly. We take their word as the gospel truth and believe they have our best interest at heart. This trust has been built over time, interaction after interaction the trust is cemented and the relation strengthened. We become advocates of such organizations and fight off unbelief from others. We keep going back and even introduce our family, our friends and our colleagues. We trust them because of past experiences and also what we have heard from others.

This trust however can be broken in an instant. Many long serving customers have left companies that they once upon a time believed in but who they no longer can trust. Though there are some who go back after reassurance there are those whose trust is broken beyond repair. Such customers promise themselves never to eat at a certain restaurant, never to use a particular airline, never to belong to a certain insurance company or bank, never to use specific suppliers and never to use a certain brand of products and so on. Most such customers keep this promise and completely cut off the relationship with the company involved. It does not matter how much is spent in advertisement campaigns it is often unlikely to win back most such customers after they have moved on. Since customers have a choice and there many players in the market, they are able to find the service or the products elsewhere.

As I have keenly followed the happenings in our banking sector, I have observed the pain expressed by the customers affected. Having built the trust over time a single announcement by the regulator has broken this trust possibly beyond repair. Many have felt cheated by falling prey to the marketing gimmicks and the customer service focus that the banks in questions fronted. Many were unware of what may have been going behind the scenes and they feel let down by the leadership in these banks.  Many customers were caught by surprise that their once trusted bank are no longer able to meet its obligations.

Building and maintaining customer trust is an organizational wide responsibility. From the board that is responsible for prudent corporate governance to the guards who look after the customers’ cars as the customers use the services.  Everyday decisions and actions contribute to either building trust or destroying trust built over time.  Towards the end of 2015 Chipotle Mexican grill a chain of fast foods in the USA was had incidences of food poisoning w. I closely followed through how they were able to rebuild customer trust. At one time they closed all their 1971 stores to give employees a refresher course on food safety. In addition they announce investing 10 million dollars to help farmers and other suppliers meet stringent food-safety standards and even increased the paid sick leave days for their employees to discourage sick employees from coming to work. All this was in an effort to rebuild customer trust and they kept the public updated.

Given that the power of choice is today stronger than ever before, customer are able to find alternatives never to return. What is evident is that how and organization communicates during a crisis is very important in maintaining trust but more importantly is a leadership that has the customer’s best interest a heart.

Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on or via twitter @kiruthulucy

Leave a Reply