The Single Fastest Thing You Can Do to Increase Trust

That’s quite a claim. But I think I can back it up. (This thing also requires little time or money, meaning it’s also high ROI).

First, let’s define terms.

• By “increase trust,” I mean something Person A can do that increases their probability of being trusted by Person B;
• By “fastest,” I don’t mean easiest, nor most powerful. I mean least elapsed time between interaction and resultant trust.
• By “trust,” I mean legitimate trust, trustworthiness on the part of Person A. No fakery.

It’s simple, though not easy. Let me tell you what it is; then give you 11 reasons why it is indeed the single fastest way to increase trust.

It is simply this:

Return calls and emails really fast.

That’s it. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But let’s explore further.

First, here’s the basic template for doing it:

Joe, I want to let you know I got your message. I may not get to it until Thursday, but I want to let you know I’m on it. I’ll be working it between now and then. It’s on my to-do list, it’s in my mind first thing in the morning and last at night. You can take it off your worry list, I’m on the case.

Now let’s explore what this does for you and your client.

1. It immediately removes FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) from your client’s mind. All those concerns (did he get it? why hasn’t he answered me yet? was it something I said? Is he avoiding me? is he fighting me?) are gone. Cut off. Stopped cold. You have committed to engage.

2. It allows you to proactively schedule things out to Thursday. (Don’t worry—if they actually do need it Tuesday, they’ll be back to you about it).

3. By making a commitment to engage, you create a chance to improve your perceived reliability and integrity—by proceeding to do just what you said you’d do.

4. It demonstrates your attentiveness to the client’s issue.

5. It demonstrates your sensitivity to the client’s time needs.

6. It forces you to address an issue. The tougher and more difficult the issue, the more important this is. How many people have not returned your call in the last three days? The more uncomfortable an issue is, the more likely we are to delay, or avoid, facing it. Unfortunately, the other person knows it. They in turn silently accuse us of passive-aggressive avoidance. And they’re right.

7. By dealing with tough issues—putting them squarely on the table—we show that we are not afraid to constructively engage. The work of John Gottman in marriages shows the enemy of relationships is not confrontation, but disengagement. Returning that difficult phone call forthrightly builds relationships.

8. By scheduling it for Thursday, you show that you’re in charge of your schedule, therefore an efficient server of clients.

9. By scheduling it forthrightly, you show confidence that you can deal with the issue, and confidence itself is confidence-inspiring (I’m assuming here you can back it up).

10. By responding quickly and directly, you validate the client’s sense of the issue as being accurate and timely.

11. You’re going to have to deal with this thing anyway. You can do it efficiently, effectively and confidently and gain all the above benefits; or you can put it off hoping either the issue will die, the muse will descend from the heavens, or the client will forget about it.

Do the right thing. Return that call or email really fast.

12 replies
  1. Jim Monk
    Jim Monk says:

    I take issue with your statement:  "Joe, I want to let you know I got your message. I may not get to it until Thursday, but I want to let you know I’m on it. I’ll be working it between now and then.  It’s on my to-do list, it’s in my mind first thing in the morning and last at night. You can take it off your worry list, I’m on the case.

    Most of  the words are fine, but if I were the client, the statement "it’s in my mind first thing in the morning and last at night"  would sound like a pile of BS.  I may believe you will get it done by Thursday, depending on your track record of getting work done on time, but that this particular issue is sizzling at the front of your brain morning and night sounds — yeah, right.  If you said "everytime I review my to-do list, your needs are right there and moving up to the top of the list", I could believe that.

    Just an opinion.


  2. Gabriel Goldenberg
    Gabriel Goldenberg says:

    Charlie, that’s an excellent idea, and one that is altogether insufficiently employed by big bloggers and such.

    To add to what you wrote, when you can’t handle the volume of email you get, have some staff help you respond. They don’t need to be full time workers. A part-timer who’s responsible and articulate can do just fine. Besides, they can work from home!

    I’m glad you submitted to that Carnival of the Capitalists I hosted! Allowed me to discover a great new blog :). Speaking of which: I’ve submitted this to Sphinn (it’s like Digg, but oriented to search marketing ppl), and encourage you to Sphinn it too.

  3. Liz Fuller
    Liz Fuller says:

    This is a great article. We all know we should do this but you lay out solid business reasons for following through.  I am linking to this from my blog, and I am also sending it out to everyone who works for me (not to mention keeping it close at hand for myself!!)



  4. Marjorie
    Marjorie says:

    That’s one of the things I really need to work on. I’ve a few emails that I need to return, some of which are — gulp — a few weeks old. They’re all personal emails, rather than business (I do try to return business-related emails within 24-48 hours), but to me I don’t separate the two: both are equally important. And as you point out so eloquently in this email, it’s the quickest way to garner someone’s trust, something we could all use in our personal and business lives.

    Thanks for a great post!

  5. Usiku
    Usiku says:

    Responding to inquiries seems to be an area of discretionary courtesy.  Companies that offer contact information and then don’t respond or provide the information online should stop pretending to care about communication.

  6. Hops
    Hops says:

    First thought when I read this: DUH. Seems so easy that the fact that you actually posted about it is kind of silly. But then I remembered all those times (and there are a lot) when I didn’t get back to someone because  I was waiting on someone or something else and didn’t have any updates. Then I remembered all those times (and there are a ton) when I was waiting to hear something, ANYTHING from people, even if it’s just an update that nothing has happened yet, but will soon.

    Thanks for that – this was a good reminder.


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