Why you should just trust your customers

- Entrepreneurial Skills

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by Sergey Kotlov

Another name for this article could be “How to delight your clients by making them suffer first”. It’s a story about a decision that wasted a lot of time for many and didn’t bring any value because it was based on distrust.
If you ever met me in person, you would know that trust and transparency is my default way of communicating. As I always prefer long-term relationships over short-term, I see no reason to do otherwise. First, it saves me energy —  I don’t need to filter out some precious chunks of information and keep track of everything. I don’t need to be afraid that one moment I forget about the facts I haven’t shared on purpose and find myself in a stupid position. It’s the same with lies. You have to remember what you said and to whom. The process drains a huge amount of energy. Second, I find it disrespectful in some way. If I don’t have a reason not to trust you  but you trust me, it means I think lower of you. Third, trust by default makes things move much faster as you don’t waste time.

Though I do live this way right now, the ghosts of my past appear occasionally and bring some damage…

More than a year ago the Management 3.0 team decided to publish the ratings of its facilitators. Public ratings is a powerful instrument for making a system to control itself. When facilitators are not good in educating other people, their ratings get lower and they get fewer gigs. The similar scheme is used by Amazon to rate books and Yelp! to compare places. The system is self-balancing without additional control imposed from above. However, as any instrument, it could be gamed. For example, facilitators could start creating fake evaluations to increase their own rating. Having that in mind, I made an assumption some facilitators will start deceiving in the future.
I keep aside the fact all assumptions should be proved first. Now my focus is on why that assumption appeared at all. The answer is simple and embarrassing —  I distrusted our customers.

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So I developed a mechanism to tangle the process for creating fake evaluations. The mechanism added an additional step into the evaluation process. When a participant left an evaluation, she got a confirmation link to her mailbox. Until she clicked the link to confirm the evaluation, the evaluation had Unconfirmed status and the facilitator couldn’t do anything with it, even delete it.

This feature didn’t prevent the deceiving completely, it just made it more difficult. On top of that, it complicated the evaluation process considerably.

After the launch of this new feature, I started getting complaints from facilitators. They didn’t understand what Unconfirmed status meant and what they could do with it. Their participants didn’t get their well-deserved certificates in timely fashion. Everyone was frustrated including me as I had to spend a lot of time solving those issues.

Though I was discouraged by the first bad feedback, I didn’t roll the changes back. I persuaded myself it happened because of the lack of education of facilitators and so-so user interface. Both could be improved. There was another more noble reason to keep the new mechanism in place — if participants confirmed their evaluations then the email addresses they left were correct and facilitators could use them afterwards. After some time that reason became the main one as my initial assumption was getting proved wrong.

Few months passed. We kept wasting our time explaining to facilitators the concept of evaluation confirmation and improving a UI. Finally we reached the point when I stopped receiving any questions at all. I was happy and relieved everything was up and running smoothly. How blind I was!

Two weeks ago I got into a conversation with a trainer and realized how much that person disliked the existing process. I shot a question in Slack and received several replies almost immediately. The facilitators didn’t like the process at all, they simply got used to it because it was the tool they had to use to be a Management 3.0 facilitator. The most ugly nuance was that nobody tried to deceive the system. A complete waste of time and effort!
Last weekend I removed the step which caused so much frustration and wasted so much time for many. It took me more than a year to realise and accept I made a wrong decision. It started with an assumption which was against my principles — not trusting automatically. And it showed me one more time people are worth trusting by default.

Besides being a Happy Melly Funder, I am the founder of Workshop Butler, a platform for trainers and training companies to save time on course management and promote classes right on your website. We do listen to our customers. Even if it takes some time to hear them.

When has failing to trust hurt your business? Tell us in the comments below!

One thought on "Why you should just trust your customers"

  • Andy Cleff says:

    Thanks for a great post!
    As Mark Twain once said: ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.’

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