When people know you, when they see you every day, when they like what they see, they trust you.
When my mum was running her business she used to shop for her clothes, have a coffee and buy her stationery in the street where her shop was located. She was not looking for the cheapest provider: she was looking to build trust and a sense of community and solidarity among the businesses working in the same area. In return, she shopped for whatever she needed and paid it for it at the end of the month.
When I moved to Scotland I used to buy my vegetables at the corner shop. They knew me, and we used to have a little chat here and there. One day I was in hurry to take a train, I didn’t have cash and I wanted to pay by card. Their card machine was not working. I wanted to buy some biscuits. I asked the man if I could pay him tomorrow, and he said no. I felt terrible.
It was not only that I felt he didn’t trust me, but also that my idea of the sense of community that I thought I was cultivating was broken. I felt lonely.
That was the story I told myself, but he probably had a different one in his head – a story about people taking advantage of him, of being fair and only buying when you have money, of not asking strangers for favours except in exceptional cases.
Trust never grows in a vacuum. It’s cultural, it’s experienced, it’s learned, it’s a story that we tell ourselves.
On that day I thought I was cultivating trust and community, but the person at the other end thought differently.
Trust is not an isolated concept: it’s built up in relationship with others.
When it comes to finding out if you’ve earned trust from your customers, never take it for granted and always check beforehand whether you’ve earned that privilege.