A Lesson about Trust from the Pasture

by Joy Lanzaro

Contractors, mechanics and other consumer service providers are in the Trust business. Every time a service professional breaks from expectations, the customer is confronted with a choice between trust and self-preservation. While missed appointments and failure to call might seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, these breaches in social contracts confront customers in a significant way. Once compromised, the cost of restoring trust can exceed time and materials and may be the difference between profit and loss.

Let’s use the example of my 3/4 Arabian mare, Sasha. Her cooperation is reliable under a specific set of conditions for which she’s been prepared and tested. My job is to continually earn Sasha’s trust over an ever-widening range of conditions. The other day, I overestimated her trust when I attempted to take off her blanket in a field without using a halter. She warned me that she was processing the choice between trusting me and self-preservation. So, when she tensed her muscles and focused her eyes and ears in the direction of the far corner of the field, I should have known she was about to bolt. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt, but it could have been a costly disaster if the blanket fell around her legs while she was running. The moral of the story is this: Even if you have a trusting relationship under certain circumstances, you still need to look for signs that you’re overdrawing on that trust account.

Service professionals:

  • What are the costs of having an untrusting dynamic with a customer?
  • At what point do you take inventory of a person’s flight risk?
  • Have you ever been burned by miscalculating a customer’s loyalty?
  • Do you ever find yourself wondering why a customer with whom you’ve always had a good relationship suddenly turns?
  • What little things are you doing to reinforce trust with customers so they choose to trust you if they become frightened?
  • What signs will your customers give you that they’re about to bolt?