“To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…To create value and make a difference.” Do you recognize this promise? It is made by a company we all use products from on a daily basis. Or perhaps this one: “To create a better everyday life for the many people”. These promises are made by Coca Cola and IKEA and should thrive most of their decision making. Thrive the way they bring their products to the market. But if you buy these products, shouldn’t you as a consumer know this? If you want to be able to trust the companies you buy the goods from, should you at least know what the purpose of this company is? For a short recap, please check the elements of trust.

Instead of understanding the promise of companies we focus on the products they deliver. We like to use products without understanding why companies bring them to the market. Companies themselves are also getting attracted to a product or revenue focus instead of a mission focus. Either caused by the business model that gets dominant or following a digital buzz. Especially for companies, following the mission could have such a positive impact, as it aligns the activities within the company where it could benefit from the speed of trust.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Digital transformation and the search for constant revenue growth is pushing organizations to be in a constant change. Google is an example of expanding their scope of what they promise to the market. Where it all started with: Our mission: to organize all information in the world and make it accessible and usable for everyone. they now have a higher-level brand Alphabet where new initiatives and promises can be started.

Another example is the radical change in promise the insurance companies are slowly introducing. Where it all started as an initiative where everybody chips in to make sure we are safe after life changing events.  In other words, they made sure you have less worries in exchange for money. They are now introducing more and more services making you aware of all the risks that are threatening your health or belongings.

But once a company is open about changing their promise this can backfire as well. Rabobank focused their mission to solve the world food problem. Growing a better world together. Being the biggest bank in the agricultural sector, this is a mission that fits the background of the company. But the public opinion was ruthless and awarded this mission with the “Liegebeest” award that can be translated to the big liar award.

If we want to build a more sustainable model and start fixing the trust between organizations and its users, we need to start investing time understanding one and another. As a client, don’t just buy the product and rely on a governmental institutions to protect you as a client with for example something like GDPR with regards to privacy. Take the time to understand what thrives the company and if you believe them. Where as an organization,  respect your mission and open the dialog with your client in a controlled way if you want to change your promise. It will provide feedback that will accelerate your ambitions on the long run.

Do you recognize internal meetings where the presenter tries to sell the story to the audience? Full of passion the strategy is presented to the audience to rally the troops. I was an attendee of one of these meetings lately when I asked myself the question:

Why are you selling this story and why are you not seeking for feedback and ask our audience: Do you believe this story?

If trust starts with understanding and believing in ones promise, we should invest more time and effort in building a promise an organization believes in. Do you ever check whether someone believes your promise? Or do you believe uncertainty weakness your trust?

It got me struggling to understand the difference between believe and trust. Do you believe in me or do you trust me. Is there a different meaning? Asking google for an answer, gave a confirmation, that I was not the only one struggling.

The following description gave the best answer for me:

Trust is a value that requires a foundation between two parties. Trust is developed based on a party’s knowledge about another. On the other hand, believe is a value of acceptance to facts or circumstances. It is based on thoughts and observations.

With digitization it becomes more and more easy to gain knowledge about one another and therefore believe and trust will grow closer together. Therefore I think we should ask each other more often: do you believe I can do this or do you have any doubts?

It could be an upgrade for the NPS metric that is devaluating rapidly. Asking your clients and employees the same question: do you believe in the promise of the organisation? It requires the judging party to invest time in understanding the promise and provide real feedback. At the same time the organisation should build more proof around these questions that ultimately will lead to trust.

After being a loyal customer for many years, I lost trust in my bank in a wink of an eye. The direct reason was a shortcoming in delivering on what is seen as the core service of a bank: A financial  transaction. Denial of the emotional impact and rigid communication made it worse. I must admit, I was a passive customer, a so called ‘sleeper’. Too lazy to consider switching to another bank for better service and price. Now I’m not a sleeper anymore, I would switch banks as soon there is a better option.

While this example is about me and my bank, any company could face a similar situation, especially if its customers are consumers: For 25 years I was a happy customer, trusting my bank completely. Without hesitation I switched to online banking and payment banking apps. Until a month ago my confidence suddenly vanished. My payment for our holidays had left my account within one day, using the online banking. However, after 2 weeks my hotel reported that the money still hadn’t arrived. My money was lost for more than one month. My emotions went through different stages, from rage, disappointment to frustration. Not only, the communication of the bank didn’t help, it made everything worse. Don’t get me wrong, it was correct and followed the process. But it was not emphatic. Each interaction with the bank – except one – left me with the feeling that this is purely my problem. There is nothing they could have done wrong and therefore it is not their problem to solve.

What they offered though, is to start an investigation. This investigation however would take 6 weeks, so it would end after the start of my holidays – and the agreement with the hotel was ‘prepayment’. The investigation couldn’t be accelerated and it would cost me a fee. I was furious, but there was no alternative and I agreed. From that moment on, it turned out to be impossible to get any status update, nor by e-mail, nor by phone. I came to the conclusion that a service desk is about avoiding costs by preventing me to speak directly to the department involved. I felt so angry. After 3 weeks I received an email from the payment department that they had sent a mail to the bank at my holiday destination, but hadn’t received a reply. I thought that this is a bad joke. How is sending an e-mail a proper investigation? Nevertheless, it finally gave me the opportunity to contact the department involved directly. One hour later a real person called me back and listened to my frustration. Lastly I felt taken serious and my anger faded.

After 4 and a half weeks the hotel communicated that they had received the money. My husband and I have a joint account and this time it was my husband who notified the service desk of our bank. To my surprise, one day later the payment department send me a message that they still had no reply on my payment status, completely unaware of the fact of our notification of the bank the problem had been solved. This again confirmed my view that they were not in control of the process and that internally the bank was hopelessly siloed. It made me think if even a normal bank transaction, what I consider as a basic service, is not properly taken care of, what else I could go wrong in future? This again undermined my view that this was just a ‘one-off’. Tomorrow, it could happen to me again.

After this incident the magic moment of the blind trust in my bank was broken. It was my wake-up call. So, what went wrong? Yes, I realise that processing international payments is an extremely complex process with many regulations. Many banks still have siloed legacy systems and there are many risks involved trying to transform it. Banks also rarely have interoperable systems with banks in other countries. And despite the new ISO2002 standard as a worldwide payment code, different procedures continue to exist. Nevertheless, via the online banking the international payment process seamed unbelievable simple. And prior to performing the transaction, the bank even encouraged me to use online banking. Banks tell us about digital transformation and seamless services, but it will still take them many, many years to make this promise true. But while I am confident that they will work hard to resolve the technical issues, I am much less confident that they will solve – or even address – my issue: I lost trust, because they ignored my emotions.

Losing the customer’s trust through one incident can happen to every organisation. And it can happen even more easily the more customer interactions have been digitalized. Despite all the hype about Big Data, AI, Deep Learning etc., digital interactions always have to follow a predefined path. They can not find a creative solution to an individual situation, they are not able to recognize emotions and they are not able to show empathy.

So let’s get a deeper understanding of trust and emotions in relationship with companies. It is important to realize my emotional context: I was to looking forward to my holidays. Instead I was 4 weeks deeply concerned about losing both money and holiday. For the bank this was just an operational error. Organisations need to understand the very deep emotions that drive customers’ trust and loyalty. Most organisations tend to focus on the logic and rational side of the customer experience, gathering data on price, speed, quality etc. The famous Nobel prize winner Kahneman argues that what people remember in an experience is the peak emotion and the emotion they felt at end. Those form a memory. Loyalty is a function of memory: When a customer does not remember, she/he is not able to be loyal because every experience would be new. Customers tend to remember the last experience and a negative experience more than the positive ones.
In regards of retaining or losing customer trust, also don’t underestimate the role of the front-office in my case. They need to have freedom and easy access to all of the information, account stakeholders and departments for an adequate advice. They also should be able to provide simple online status updates on how the case is handled. Incentive should be a happy customer, not on keeping the conversation short.
I still don’t know what went wrong in my particular case and probably will never find out. But the bank missed an opportunity to learn from this failure and, if needed, to improve their operational processes. Rebuilding my trust would have been possible by genuine acknowledging that there was an problem and that they were focused on fixing it. Maybe an unexpected gesture of apology after the matter was solved, would have  softened my last emotion. The bank didn’t. So now I have forgotten about what the bank did, but not how they made me feel.

Do you want to learn more about what drives the emotional  journey of your customers and how to build and retain a relation of trust, don’t hesitate to contact me at Leapstrat:

✆          +31 62952 6605

Leapstrat is a consultancy firm that helps companies to be successful in the markets of the future. A future that will be fundamentally different, a future where trust is the ultimate currency. Leapstrat has developed an integrated 4-step approach that helps you to architect your own future that fits who you are and who you want to become, with an action plan that starts today.


When the topic of trust is discussed it often touches ethics and the question is raised how strongly they are interconnected. For example: Can you only be trusted if you behave ethical? I believe there is a difference. A hit-man or a drug-dealer is considered to be unethical as a profession, but they can be trusted for what they do.

From an organisational point of view, I do believe the link is stronger. The elements of trust were explained in my previous blog using the underneath model.


When it comes to ethics there are three elements that link with ethics.

Promise. If your promise to the audience is to behave ethical, they will expect you to keep this promise. And once the promise is made it is not easily forgotten as it is registered in your history.

History. Organisations that hold a history that is linked to the country (e.g. railways, telecommunications, main-ports) or companies that are rewarded with a royal label are expected to behave ethical on a country level.

Authenticity. Social responsibility activities must be evaluated from an authenticity point of view. Does the audience believe the good intentions or do they feel it is a crowd pleasure. This can have a big impact on your trust both positive and negative.

These are the factors that can be controlled by the organisation. It gets more difficult once we have a conflict of interest. Contributing to national safety where possible is something that can be considered as ethical, but if it means breaking your promise to provide secure communications its a dilemma. This is increasingly challenging for smartphone builders and telecommunication providers.

Another example is with social media and fake news. These platforms gave control to the users to create and share content. Side effect is fake news and influencing the masses. From an ethics point of view the audience suddenly expects from the organization to do something where it was never written in the promise.

I believe we should separate the two topics of trust and ethics. Societal norms and corresponding expectations must be seen as a factor that can challenge the tolerance of your audience and must be dealt with in the formulation and execution of the promise.

As mentioned earlier I believe that we are in a trend where Trust is devaluated rapidly while at the same time there is a need for organizations to work on their trust as a digital revolution is setting transparency fully open. To be able to prepare for this future, organizations need to understand what the elements of trust are and how to configure them for their organization.


When it comes to Trust, the main differentiator between a startup and an existing organization is History. It can’t be ignored what promises were made in the past and in what way the organization was able to deliver according to this promise. The history of an organization is nine out of ten times something to be proud about. This is something that is missed by the organization itself, but respected by the audience;

When a new promise is made, the history must be kept in made to create an authentic promise that will lead to tolerance from your audience. If you have no tolerance, the proof must be flawless, which is near to impossible when you try to do something new. Other factors that influence tolerance are modesty and credibility in your promise. In the end it is the audience that will decide wether you are authentic or not and if you have any tolerance.

Take time to set the promise and validate it with an audience that holds a high tolerance. Until then, keep your promise to yourself, because once the genie is out of the bottle, it becomes part of your history and it will become more difficult to come up with a new one.

For your audience to get familiar with your new promise, they must be able to find proof. Again, authenticity is crucial. If you try to influence this and your audience finds out, this will have a big negative impact on your trust and familiarity will turn negative. Modesty in your promise comes very handy because under promise and overdeliver is always better to build proof. Big promises mainly result in disappointment and once they are met it will not result in extra credit, because why would it? Promise was made, nothing more;

Once the audience gathers more and more proof of the promise, familiarity will grow to trust and turn into loyalty. Once an organization reaches this stage with their audience, value can be found in:

  1. Increase in tolerance and therefore forgiveness from your audience. Resulting in lower customer complaints and loss of clients;
  2. Transactional cost will be lowered as customer know what they want, trust you to deliver what they want and will have no doubt you will deliver;
  3. Your audience will act as an ambassador for your organization which will add to the proof of the promise and lead to new customers;

What do you think are examples of organizations that were able to come up with a promise that prepares them for the future, respects their history and are able to come with proof? And what are examples that you believe still have a lot of work todo? Looking forward for your response.

For the people who know me professionally, it is no secret that I have grown a fascination for Trust. For example: What is it, can you measure it and how do you nurture it? Is there a difference between trust in people and trust in an organization? I still have a lot of questions left, but I believe to see a trend of harm being done to it.

“The biggest global issue is the continued erosion of trust.”
(Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman World Economic Forum)

Blockchain is for example being named as the automation of Trust. Where in my opinion it helps to govern agreements between parties in a transparent, cheaper and more efficient way. The trust that is needed to come to an agreement is still the responsibility of the parties involved.

Another example of the devaluation is degrading Trust merely to security. An example is the digital trust center that is setup as an initiative by the government to support small business to be more cyber secure. A good initiative but looking at its name, it should cover more topics. For example, ethics.

And third is the trend I see is to ask Legal to setup trust. But in the meantime, I’m observing more and more documents that have no meaning at all. People sign them without thinking. Examples are the Letter of Intent, the NDA and the processor agreement.

In my opinion, Trust is something we should foster and that will become more valuable then ever. Trust allows us to act faster on the long run and gives us a secure feeling. Look for example how you behave among friends. Agreeing on a holiday location, transferring money or ask them to baby sit can be something that is agreed upon within seconds, because you trust one another. Depending on the friend of course.

And in the digital world, where all transactions will be logged by data and transparency will become more and more the standard, keeping your promise is not an option but a must. And the promise you make should be crystal clear for a broad audience to understand, otherwise misunderstandings will take place.

So therefore, I want to get a better understanding on Trust. Can we put a value on it? How can we implement it in business to take time to build trust and break the trend of moving faster? I will continue this journey with the members of the Denktank Innovatie en Vertrouwen and anyone who is willing to support. You can join us on