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Reading Assignment

Not so long ago, being reasonably trustworthy was good enough. But soon only the extremely trustworthy will thrive. 


If you mistakenly click to order 22 bags of chips from Peapod, the company will pop a notice on your screen warning that you are about to buy more than 10 of an item.  Not because it would be illegal or unethical for Peapod to profit from your error, but because one surefire way to earn the trust of customers is to help them avoid making mistakes and doing things that aren’t in their own interest, even when their mistakes might actually generate a profit for the company.


In the age of the Web, smartphones, and social networks, every action an organization takes can be exposed and critiqued in real time.  If you treat one customer unfairly, produce one shoddy product, or try to gouge one price, the whole world will find out in hours, if not minutes, and will show little mercy as customer expectations continue to rise. 


Peppers and Rogers argue that the best response to this rising level of transparency is to be “trustable,” or proactively trustworthy – going out of your way to protect the interests of customers, not just because this will increase your business with them in the long term, but because it can pay off in the short run too, as more customers in different industries show increasing willingness to pay more to do business with companies they trust.


The authors predict how this trend will play out in many different sectors:    

  • Credit card companies will coach customers on how to avoid excessive borrowing.

  • Cell phone providers will proactively advise customers when their plan is more expensive than necessary for their usage.

  • Subscription services will notify customers before renewing their subscriptions and charging their on-file credit cards

  • Banks will warn depositors prior to applying overdraft charges and other fees.

  • Retailers will remind shoppers when they have unused balances on their gift cards, or other unused credits available.


They detail the practices of a few “early adopters” such as Ally Bank, which proactively alerts customers if they have funds on deposit that could earn higher interest in a different account and, in an unprecedented move for a financial institution, allows customers to post product reviews on its Web site for other customers’ viewing. 


Trustability shouldn’t be confused with reputation. The success of companies like Airbnb and Uber isn’t based on their reputations but on the fact that they have become “trust platforms,” as renters and guests, drivers and riders, rate each other after every ride.  Already there are more Uber cars than taxis in Manhattan, and Airbnb offers more rooms, worldwide, than Hyatt.


With a wealth of fascinating examples and practical, future-oriented suggestions, this book will show you not just how to earn--and keep--the extreme trust of your customers, employees, and business partners, but also how to stay ahead of the social era’s rapidly rising expectations, and how to meet the needs of shareholders in the process.

[Now in hardcover and e-book, soon to be available in paperback from Penguin]

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