Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Client Service And Trust

I thought I'd try to gain some mid-year perspective on the findings and recommendations contained in Edelman's Trust Barometer, so I recently reread the study. Released in January, it's the tenth year in a row the firm has conducted this global study on trust - a worthwhile and laudable commitment. And as my professor Dr. Karl Soehnlein from Seton Hall University always preaches, "It all comes down to trust, doesn't it?"

As many of you who read this blog know, when it comes to building trust, I'm fascinated by the impact of values. It's about who you are, what you care about, and matching words and deeds. Building trust isn't about key messaging to client/consumer hot buttons, it's about influencing a marketplace to draw its own positive conclusions about your values and priorities, and reinforcing those conclusions each and every day to build trust.

While this year's study includes its share of sobering news, Edelman suggests that a strategy of public engagement, both in terms of policy and communication, can start you on the road to rebuilding trust. It's described in terms of public sector diplomacy, mutual social responsibility, shared sacrifice, and continuous conversation.

David Maister might suggest that this advice is the equivalent of telling someone to stop smoking, stop drinking, exercise more, and eat better as a means to start you down the road to better health. While Edelman's and Maister's advice are spot on, they'll have all the teeth of a new years resolution without a change in values and priorities and a commitment that is longterm.

As Maister points out in his book, Strategy and the Fat Smoker, you may get healthy for awhile, but if you're not committed to longterm life change, then your newfound fitness and health will be short lived.

If you think it's hard to lose 10 pounds again, then try regaining someone's trust.

The entire study is packed full of information, so I encourage you to read and/or reread it. If your organization has the courage to follow Edelman's advice, then do so with an understanding of your values and priorities, and an eye toward real longterm change.

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