It seems that Trust has become one of the most important words in the Financial Industry. Customers can trust that their money is safeguarded, that their financial advisors treat them ethically, that the institutions in which they place their trust have a reputation of being compliant with industry regulations, and that their transactions are safeguarded. In a world of phishing scams and identity theft, consumers want to deal with companies they trust. Regulatory oversight has required that banks follow strict guidelines when working with clients, with a focus on a code of conduct around Risk and Compliance that drives good behaviors – but compliance does not necessarily build trust. Nor does it go far in recovering lost trust.
Few things are more personal than money. Money means security, it pays the bills, allows one to enjoy life, and even a comfortable retirement. Good behavior does not necessarily erase past behavior – how many relationships never recover after a loved one has broken trust? Keep this in mind when you consider rebuilding lost trust. It takes tremendous effort to restore trust. Some suggest that demonstrating ethical behavior, being competent in your services, and showing that you care about your customers will rebuild trust. Sorry, but being good again is not enough.
Recovering trust begins with self-examination and honesty. You may want to believe that your company is the victim of an isolated incident in a faraway land, or that a regulatory agency is over-reaching or over-reacting to an incident. Do not fall into this trap; your customers felt the pain of the financial crisis. People lost their homes, their jobs, and in some instances their very way of life. They blame all financial institutions, especially if your company was in any way cited for improper actions. Remember, your organization is not the victim.
Exactly how do you recover trust?
- Admit your mistakes. – The faster you acknowledge a problem, the quicker forgiveness comes.
- Take quick action to correct problems. – Be very public with your actions, let your customers know you understand your issues. Do not wait for a regulatory agency to direct your recovery.
- Develop a customer centric vision and strategy. – Imagine again that you are the customer. How should you be engaged? How would you want your family, friends, and community to view your company?
- Build employees’ confidence. – Grow advocates for trust throughout your organization. Employees want to be proud of your brand, give them reasons (though your actions) to be proud.
- Engage your customers in building trust. – This is a two way relationship, be direct and ask your clients what they expect in terms of value and performance.
- Go beyond words. – Support your vision with strategies and tactics that drive a cultural shift that builds trust.
A culture of trust begins at the top, grows in the middle, and is realized at the point of customer engagement. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of organizations that have made decisions to change the way they do business. Their rationales for change were sound: desiring to grow, reacting to market pressures, or meeting regulatory requirements. I have seen both success and failure in these engagements, and the single common factor in failure (and success) is whether leadership truly embraces change, and takes an active role in that change. Leaders at all levels must embrace, engage, and promote a customer centric culture. To this end, it is important that a clear vision and corporate strategy is developed, shared, and driven throughout the organization. Leaders should cascade this strategy, and engage every employee in the achievement of this vision.
Lastly, do not underestimate the value of customer engagement in rebuilding trust. Rebuilding trust begins when your customers see visible evidence that you deliver on your word. Once they become your advocates, you will be on your path to success.
Mission Leadership is a truly holistic approach to business execution and starts with understanding the aspirational vision for the organization. Once an organization has clarity on “where it is going,” each individual must understand “what is my role in achieving it?” – Philosophy of McKinney Rogers, a division of GP Strategies
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