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Zappos, Apple, and Best Buy share a common feature: consumer trust is their key competitive advantage. Why is the ability to generate trust a new asset for companies? What are the characteristics of firms that are really trusted?

In a world that is highly inter-connected, the levels of integrity and trust expected of others have never been so high.

“If you accidentally try to buy the same song twice from iTunes, a message will warn you that you already have the song—and not because it would be illegal for Apple to make money at your expense. […] The leaders of iTunes are convinced that there is no better way to develop your trust than to be totally honest, especially when you least expect it,” explain Don Peppers and Martha Rogers. And as new technologies continue to increase transparency, consumers are becoming more and more demanding when it comes to customer service. What are the fundamental characteristics of a trusted company?

1. Defend customer interests
Trusted companies proactively protect the interests of every customer; this includes ensuring that customers do not overestimate the benefits of a product or service.

2. Take responsibility
Your Zappos order has not arrived within the advertised time scale? You will be refunded in full and given a voucher, even if the delay is outside the company’s control.

3. Get closer to your customers
Missing out on a sale but winning the loyalty of a consumer makes more sense than sealing the deal at any cost. Building trusting relationships with customers means understanding their needs and opening up a dialogue.

4. Create an internal culture of trust
Command-and-control style management obstructs the ability of employees to provide strong customer service, whereas giving employees autonomy sends a positive signal to customers.

Business leader testimony
Amazon’s business model is not based on the competiveness of its prices but on the trust of its customers. This strategy for growth has reaped strong results: the brand posted sales of more than $48 billion in 2011 – triple the average for e-commerce companies.

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How to win customer trust

Based on Extreme Trust by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, La confiance numérique by Daniel Kaplan and Renaud Francou and “Amazon.com’s three digital engines” by Stéphane Distinguin.
Business Digest nº 231, November 2012

Watch the video
Extreme Trust In Depth: Why the book and why now?

Peppers & Rogers Group co-founders and “Extreme Trust” authors Don Peppers and Martha Rogers explain how customer expectations are evolving and how their concept of trustability is what businesses will need to know in order to survive.