In our first post on this topic, we examined why trust matters and how it can be built on three levels: reputation, compliance, and customer service. In the second of this two-part post, we examine how training can be used to build trust and how to rebuild trust when it is compromised.

How to promote trust

How Training Can Help Build a Reputation of Trust

Risk Management Training and Trust

Whether you are running a private enterprise or not-for-profit organization, risk is inevitable. By definition, risk refers to the likelihood and impact of any uncertain, sudden and/or extreme event that might impact your enterprise or organization either internally or externally. Common external risks include economic, legal, technological and security risks. Everything from fluctuating markets to hackers fall under the broad category of external risk. Internal risks include management, human capital and operational risks. Here, weak or absent leadership, inadequate recruitment and training, and poorly coordinated internal systems are common concerns.

Whether the risk is internal or external, however, when risk is not properly managed, trust is compromised. For this reason, there is a strong correlation between risk management training and trust. In short, the better an organization manages risk (or the better an organization is perceived to manage risk), the more likely it is that the organization, its products, services and/or employees will be trusted. While risk management training evidently is industry specific (e.g., a bank and NGO will approach risk differently, especially since banks and many other private enterprises also have much to gain from taking risks), risk management training invariably focuses on training employees across one’s organization to identify risks, respond in a coordinated manner, and eliminate potentially major risks long before they pose a threat.

Previously, we published an article on the devastating Germanwings’ crash. As Lufthansa’s investigation eventually revealed, despite warning signs (e.g., that the pilot had taken time off for depression), nothing was done to keep the rookie pilot off the job. In short, there’s a strong indication that had the company been paying more attention to risk management, the Germanwings’ tragedy may have never happened. It goes without saying that the company’s lack of attention to risk management had a major impact on consumers’ ability to trust the regional airline and its operator, Lufthansa.

Closely connected to risk management is compliance. While risk management is about identifying risks and responding to them accordingly, compliance is about following internal regulations and external laws, many of which are designed to reduce risks. Although workers frequently see compliance training as yet another superfluous attempt to make their work more difficult and onerous, compliance is in fact closely linked to building trust. Internally, compliance can build trust by creating a culture of respect. Externally, it can play a major role in winning over consumers’ trust in one’s products.

To illustrate how trust works internally, consider the role of compliance plays in a unionized workplace. Being in compliance with both internal hiring regulations (e.g., those agreed upon during collective bargaining and ratified between the union and employer) and external hiring regulations (e.g., local, statewide and federal hiring laws) is integral to the employer creating a culture of trust across the organization. In some organizations, however, human resources staff may be fully aware of internal and external hiring policies and regulations, but they may not be fully responsible for hiring. In the context of a college or university, for example, hiring is frequently carried out by faculty members who may know nothing or little about the institution’s collective agreement with part-time faculty or staff and even less about local, statewide and federal hiring policies. In this case, compliance training for anyone involved in the hiring process from faculty to staff to senior administrators is critical since even a single mistake can compromise the institution’s reputation as a trusted employer and/or employer committed to fair and equitable hiring.

In the private sector, the relation between compliance and trust is just as important. As an example consider the case of GMO food. There is a widespread perception that biotechnologies, especially when applied to food, are potentially risky. GMO products have, in recent years, taken a huge hit as a result of the growing fear of GMOs. Studies have shown, however, that when people are confident in the laws that control gene technology and believe the laws are being adhered to by manufacturers, social trust for these companies increases. In short, consumers assume there are fewer risks associated with GMOs when they feel rest assured that the companies in question are following regulations related to biotechnology.

On a more quotidian level, consider the impact of compliance in the restaurant industry. In cities, such as New York, every restaurant is graded on the basis of its compliance with food regulations and grades must be displayed in a location visible to customers. In this case, compliance and trust are closely linked. Although even a few small non-compliance issues can lead to a B grade, studies have shown that establishments that receive less than a grade of A often quickly lose the trust of their customers. Thus, once again, compliance training stands to play a key role in building and sustaining trust. For more on compliance, see eLeap’s online training courses on compliance, including:

Customer Service Training and Trust

While the connection between risk management and trust and compliance training and trust may be less readily visible, the relationship between customer service training and trust requires little explanation. Customers typically only have direct contact with sales staff and/or customer service representatives on the phone or online. As a result, these front line staff play a key role in trust building. As discussed in the first installment of this article, customer service representatives build trust on myriad of levels—for example, by creating a good rapport with customers, demonstrating care and sincerity, and being there as needed. Studies have shown that great great customer service can even build trust when a customer’s trust in a company has been compromised. For this reason, it is especially important for customer service training to place trust at the center. For more on customer service, see eLeap’s online training courses on customer service, including:

Putting Trust Back Into a Damaged Reputation

Above, we’ve discussed how risk management training, compliance training, and customer service training are all closely linked to building trust, but what happens when an organization’s trust has been compromised? For example, how might a company like Volkswagen in the wake of its recent emissions scandal, or Lufthansa in the wake of last spring’s Germanwings crash, regain the trust of their once solid customer bases?

  • Admit that mistakes were made; be fully transparent about what went wrong and why.
  • Elevate the power of risk managers and compliance officers within the organization and/or create new positions dedicated to managing risk and addressing compliance.
  • Increase risk management and compliance training efforts across the organization.
  • Hire additional customer service representatives and provide all existing and new front line staff with additional training focused on building trust.
  • Focus on recovering lost trust among existing customers or clients and building trust among new customers or clients.
  • Never take trust for granted; as illustrated above, even longstanding and highly trusted organizations can experience a major loss of trust if and when they let their customers down.