Is Trust Enough?

On LinkedIn, Colleen Francis is conducting an intriguing survey. “Will buyers buy from you if buyers know you, like you, and trust you?” she asks.

It made me think, "Is trust sufficient?"

Without a question, trust is an important factor in a customer's purchasing decision—we ask ourselves, "Would people buy from people they don't trust?"

We are wary of buying from persons or organizations we don't know. When the risk is very minimal, we are highly familiar with and confident in the product, and there is no other reasonable option, we may do so.

We may purchase a thing because we are familiar with it and believe in it. We may not know or trust the individual from whom we purchase a goods. We simply want to ensure that the danger of delivery is minimal.

As we enter increasingly difficult judgments, trust becomes more vital as the danger, our uncertainty/lack of understanding, and the complexity of the challenges we face increase. We may not be able to trust ourselves to make educated decisions, therefore we must rely on others—the buying group, the alternatives we're evaluating, and the people/organizations who represent those options.

Trust, it turns out, has a lot of different aspects. It isn't only a case of "I trust you/you trust me....." So simply because we can be trusted isn't enough.

Other interpretations of the notion are possible. If trust is vital in making a purchasing decision, there must be some trust in the alternatives being explored.

It just doesn't make sense to say, "We're thinking about you because we trust you, but we're also thinking about other options and don't trust them." As a result, the notion that "they bought because they trusted us" misunderstands the situation.

The other options were also "trustworthy," albeit in different ways, implying that trust is necessary but not sufficient.

As we go deeper, we discover that trust is a variable rather than an absolute. We may have faith in others for some things but not for others.

Not because someone has lost their trustworthiness, but because they may lack the competence we require for the scenario at hand. For example, while I strive to be generally trustworthy, you should not rely on me for engineering design advice, legal advice, or a variety of other matters.

While I am trustworthy, there are some things in which I should not be trusted. This isn't malice; it's simply a lack of information and competence. As a result, trust cannot be blind.

Trust isn't a "fixed" concept, as it turns out. Charlie Green, one of my friends, is possibly one of the greatest in the world at this. The "trust equation" explains how trust varies over time and under different situations: (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy)/ (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy)/ (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy)/ (Self Orientation)

So, where do we go from here? Customers make purchasing decisions based on a variety of factors, including trust, but it is not the only one. And, just as we want the consumer to trust us, we must acknowledge that the customer also trusts those who are competing for the same prize.

So, trust me, there has to be more than simply trust.

Thanks to Dave Brock at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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