Sunday, 28 November 2010

Trust me, I'm a customer

Earlier this year I read a great book by Stephen M. R. Covey called "The Speed of Trust".

This deals mainly with how if you trust your employees, they will work smarter for you, relationships grow more quickly and the whole company becomes more productive.

I think this principle also applies to customers. If you trust your customers, they will be loyal and come back to buy from you again.

I always buy a lot of my Christmas presents from Lakeland. Their products are excellent quality and because they're based in Cumbria, I can get local food goodies from there too. Cumbria does have some lovely local foods (think Sharrow Bay sticky toffee pudding, or fudge and toffee from The Toffee Shop in Penrith) which make fantastic gifts for friends and family.

Yesterday morning I sat down to unpack my box of Lakeland Christmas gifts and found that two of them had become dented in transit, so couldn't be given as gifts.

They'd put a note in the box to explain what to do if you wanted a refund or exchange - ring their helpline.

The very helpful lady on the other end said she would send me replacements straight away and please to donate the damaged goods to "a charity or good cause of your choice".

Never mind "send them back so we can verify they're really damaged". Never mind "send them back and we'll give them to charity". She trusted that the goods really were damaged. She believed me when I told her so. And she trusted me to give them to charity rather than keep them.

Not only does that make the whole process faster, because I didn't have to post back the damaged goods and wait on two lots of posting for new ones, but that trust means I'll be even more likely to buy my Christmas presents from Lakeland again next year.

Of course there will always be the odd rotten apple in the barrel, the employee who abuses your trust by taking sick leave to take his cat to the vet (no joking, I knew someone who did that), or the customer who keeps a dented box of chocolates or rings up pretending his goods are damaged just to get a new set.

But I would imagine that the extra customer loyalty Lakeland earn by trusting their customers means their repeat sales to these customers vastly outweigh any losses caused by dishonest customers.

Paddi Lund's Tower of Trust model has as one of its building blocks "Demonstrate Trusting". Lakeland just did that beautifully.