THE COMMUNICATOR It takes an age to build trust and only a mo­ment to ruin it

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

WHAT­EVER your busi­ness, what­ever your ca­reer, you need a com­bi­na­tion of skills, net­work­ing and tim­ing. But above ev­ery­thing else, real suc­cess de­pends on trust. And yet... The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported ear­lier this month that US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has now told a whop­ping 3,000 doc­u­mented lies since tak­ing of­fice. And Face­book re­luc­tantly ad­mit­ted the enor­mous user data breach from its busi­ness with Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica.

And, of course, trag­i­cally, here in Ire­land, the scan­dal en­velop­ing the na­tional health ser­vice con­tin­ues to un­fold over its de­ci­sion not to tell women the truth about their Cer­vi­cal Check smear tests which ter­mi­nally-ill Vicky Phe­lan, a for­mer pa­tient, poignantly de­scribed as “an ap­palling breach of trust”.

In a world of post-truth, fake news, al­ter­na­tive facts, data breaches, Rus­sian bots and trolls, we are liv­ing in a cri­sis of trust.

Sure, elected of­fi­cials may be voted out. An un­seemly com­pany may fold, as with Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica. Or top lead­ers of or­gan­i­sa­tions may step down — as in the case of HSE’S now-for­mer di­rec­tor Tony O’brien.

Yet, what hap­pens when a new leader steps in, and pro­cesses re­main the same? What if the shut­tered com­pany re­brands un­der a dif­fer­ent name, as re­ports have sug­gested Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica ap­pears to be do­ing in the form of Emer­data. What re­as­sur­ance do customers have?

But first, does trust re­ally mat­ter? Yes, ac­cord­ing to a myr­iad of re­search and sur­veys. The Har­vard Busi­ness Review re­ports that em­ploy­ees in high-trust com­pa­nies are more pro­duc­tive and stay with their em­ploy­ees longer. Customers are more loyal. Trust is the ba­sis of any re­la­tion­ship.

So, then, what does it take to es­tab­lish and main­tain trust?

I talked with global af­fairs an­a­lyst Michael Bo­ci­urkiw, who reg­u­larly guides large in­sti­tu­tions through emer­gen­cies. No­tably, he served as a spokesper­son for the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co-op­er­a­tion in Europe.

“It takes a very long time to de­velop a brand which peo­ple trust. Yet it only takes a mo­ment to bring it down,” he said. “If you’ve made a mis­take, own up to it im­me­di­ately. Even if you don’t have all the facts, it is bet­ter to sound con­trite or em­pa­thetic than un­apolo­getic or in­sen­si­tive. Just ask the CEO of United Air­lines if he’d do things dif­fer­ently af­ter the air­line took a ter­ri­ble PR blow when one of its pas­sen­gers was dragged off one of its over­sold flights — all recorded on smart­phones and sent around the world on so­cial me­dia and TV screens. Adopt the men­tal­ity that the cus­tomer al­ways comes first.”

The peo­ple-first men­tal­ity or mind­set is the key. This past week, I had the priv­i­lege of fa­cil­i­tat­ing a three-day cy­ber-se­cu­rity con­fer­ence in London. There, Jyrki Rosen­berg of host com­pany F-se­cure, a Hel­sinki-based global pri­vacy com­pany, said: “Be­ing trusted and trust­wor­thy must be­come the col­lec­tive mind­set of your or­gan­i­sa­tion from top to bot­tom.”

Estab­lish­ing and nur­tur­ing an in­te­grated mind­set of trust can be di­vided in three parts: 1 Ethics Peo­ple must be­lieve in you and your or­gan­i­sa­tion’s mo­tives. They must be con­vinced that your in­ten­tions are good. That your val­ues are grounded and all ac­tions are guided by a moral com­pass. You must share your com­mon goals and vi­sion pur­pose­fully and thought­fully with your em­ploy­ees and customers. You walk the talk. When you work in an eth­i­cal way, you need to do it con­sis­tently, when it’s dif­fi­cult and when no one else is watch­ing. 2 Ex­cel­lence It’s not enough if we be­lieve your in­ten­tions are good, we must also trust that you can deliver. Does your com­pany have the ca­pa­bil­i­ties to pro­vide the proper ser­vice, prod­uct or so­lu­tion? This is all about having the abil­i­ties to achieve what you say you can do. 3 Em­pa­thy This is the will­ing­ness, de­sire and pas­sion to truly try to un­der­stand the customers, the peo­ple you claim to serve. Who­ever they are. As real hu­man be­ings with hopes, dreams and fears. This is done by cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for gen­uine dia­logues. Have con­ver­sa­tions. Find ways to en­gage and ask for feed­back. Lis­ten. Then act ac­cord­ingly.

Trust can only be fully demon­strated through the tests of time. And speak­ing of time, if you lose trust, ex­perts agree that it can be re­cov­ered. But it takes time. How much of it de­pends on the level of sever­ity of the breach and the ef­forts taken to ad­dress the mis­take.

Bo­ci­urkiw cites the way Star­bucks man­age­ment han­dled the wave of bad PR from last month’s ar­rest of two African-amer­i­can men in one of its stores in Philadelphia.

The men had sat at a ta­ble with­out buy­ing any­thing, say­ing they were wait­ing for friends. The man­ager called po­lice and the ar­rests sparked protests.

“Star­bucks’ CEO took ac­tion im­me­di­ately, say­ing their re­moval was un­jus­ti­fied and this is not the way they treat customers,” said Bo­ci­urkiw. He paid a visit to Philadelphia and an­nounced the very bold de­ci­sion to close more than 8,000 of its US stores on May 29 for racial­bias train­ing for all its staff, us­ing cred­i­ble, out­side sources to con­duct those train­ings. And just last week, Star­bucks’ chair­man Howard Schultz said all are wel­come to use its store wash­rooms, even if they haven’t bought any­thing. A great cus­tomer-first move!”

For trust to be built or re­built, ac­tions al­ways will speak louder than words.

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