Reputation and trust are intrinsically intertwined in business. Companies cannot maintain their positive reputations if a strong bond of trust does not exist with their customers and constituents. It sometimes takes years to build that level of trust, but one “untrustworthy incident” can tear down a good reputation overnight.
People form judgements and perceptions of organizations and their leaders based on their understanding and frames of reference regarding who they are, what they’ve done and what they stand for. Reputational perceptions are real in the minds of the people who perceive them. Even if your product or service is solid, your sales can suffer if your customer’s perception of your company overall is negative or damaged.
As Jeff Bezos has said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”
Because very few companies have truly unique products or services, your brand is one of the few assets you have that can provide sustainable competitive advantages. Therefore, organizations need to protect and nurture that brand reputation at all costs. A recent study found that corporate reputation can drive up to 25% of an enterprise’s market value and 70% of the public’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for or invest in a company.
In our constant zeal to figure out how to sell more products and services – and yes, how to generate more revenues and profits – it is easy to think that the primary role of business is to stay in business, to win marketshare from your competitors and to grow financially every year.
Obviously, these objectives have to be met in order to sustain our companies over the long haul, to allow our employees to remain employed and to serve our customers and clients well. However, there is an important “overlay” to these basic business ingredients, and it is that truly great companies understand that the key to a thriving business is to be able to instill inherent, unblinking trust among stakeholders and customers. We must prove by our daily actions that we are the kind of people who can be trusted to do the right thing every time, no matter what. That solid trust factor is the true “stickiness” that causes our customers to stay with us over time and to continue buying whatever we are selling because they know we will deliver according to our stated values, without wavering.
As in families, business integrity starts at home. Companies that respect their employees, listen to them and treat them well establish an environment of engagement and trust that then translates into respectful, trusting behavior in the way they treat their customers. As entrepreneur and Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach once said, “If you don’t have trust inside your company, then you can’t transfer it to your customers.”
A recent poll about the importance of corporate reputation found that the following factors are critical in establishing and keeping a positive reputation:
- Fair treatment of employees
- Ensuring that products meet accepted social and environmental standards
- Open communications of both positive and negative facts
- Commitment to responsible business practices
- Philanthropic donations and activities and commitment to sustainable non-profit organizations
So, never waiver in your organization’s commitment to open, honest and authentic communication with your important audiences. Only then will lifelong business relationships truly flourish. As Zig Ziglar once said, “If people like you, they’ll listen to you. But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”