Business Success ~ The Two Phases of Trust Breach.
This week, I had my trust breached by a supplier to our company. The breach was considerable enough that I decided to end the relationship between our businesses. A trust breach at any time, whether it be personal or business related, is a horrible feeling. It’s made me reflect on how trust breaches occur in a commercial setting, and how they should be managed when they occur to you.
Firstly, let me start by saying, that nobody’s perfect. At one time or another, we are all going to let someone down. It’s not necessarily what you do that counts but how you react to it. That is a mark, in many respects, of your ethos as a business owner.
Generally speaking, a breach of trust occurs in two phases.
The first phase is when you’re first let down by the person breaching your trust. Quite often, the first stage is anger. You feel anger and annoyance towards the person who has betrayed you. You might put your complaint in writing. Depending on the degree of trust breach, it may be enough for you to to sever ties with them. However, if the breach of trust is missing a deadline, or something that overall in the grand scheme of things isn’t life and death, a trust breach moves to a second phase.
The second phase relates to how the person who has breached your trust, manages your dismay and their actions. In my case this week, the breach of trust first occurred and I complained. Phase one complete.
I assumed the response I would receive would be, reassurance and an apology. That they would let me know that what had occurred was not intentional, and that they would rectify the situation immediately. Instead, I received a response that was effectively, “Yes, we did sell your first born, but the good news is, we only sold her once.” Obviously, I found the response wholly unsatisfying and in fact, may have been worse than the initial breach of trust. Phase two complete, relationship terminated.
What I should have received was, “We are sorry. We had done the wrong thing. It was not our intention to do the wrong thing, we will put it right and make sure we make restitution to any damage that you have suffered.” If I had received that, due to the long enduring relationship, that had gone between our companies over many years, it’s possible that I wouldn’t have wanted to sever the relationship. However, the response was more telling than the initial breach of trust.
The lesson I think we should all take as business owners and entrepreneurs, is that we are not perfect. We will make mistakes. We will not meet our own service standards or our customer’s service standards at all times. We are human, and we are not perfect. It is how you respond to these failings that can make a bigger impression.
A value in your organization should be, “When we make mistakes, we make full apology and restitution immediately. We attempt to put our customers back in the position they would have been in, before the mistake occurred.” If this is not a core value of your business, you run the risk of making breaches of trust worse when you respond to them. Most good relationships can survive a relatively low degree initial breach of trust. It will not survive the breach of trust if your response is inadequate or unsatisfying to your customers. It is your duty, to ensure that you do everything in your power, to ensure your customers are put right, wherever it is at all feasible to do so. It is your reputation that is on the line.