Is your trusting cup half full or half empty?

This is a guest post from Jeanne Bliss — customer experience expert and author of “I Love You More Than My Dog.” See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on her blog.

I believe you. Those three words show trust, honor, and respect. Beloved companies decide to believe. Trust and belief are cornerstones of the best cultures. Having the ability to trust is the foundation for building the kind of company that employees love and want to work for. And that shows when they interact with customers.

Believing, the act of honoring and trusting, is a unique and special characteristic that sets beloved companies apart. It makes them human. A decision to believe employees says how fearless a company is in suspending cynicism. What you decide to believe defines the spirit of an organization.

One company that has been heralded as a beacon of what it means to trust is Wegmans Food Markets. But this isn’t blind belief. Wegmans trusts their employees because they select them with diligence and with clear success factors in mind. And then they prepare them for success.

A trained, trusted employee will do the right thing

CEO Danny Wegman believes in giving employees extensive training and experience to garner an understanding of the product and service experiences they are trusted to deliver. Wegmans invests over 40 hours per year on training to back up people’s natural instincts to do the right thing with the necessary skills to help them take action.

This allows Wegmans to “throw out the rule book.” The staff knows they can use their creativity and understanding of the business and its products to make customers happy as they see fit. That could mean deciding to give away a birthday cake to a customer whose order was accidentally miss-scheduled. Or cooking a turkey for a frazzled hostess who bought a turkey too large for her oven.

Employees with decision making authority will want to stay

By giving staff control over their own decisions and believing in them, Wegmans can deliver what Danny Wegman calls “telepathic levels of service.” This makes employees want to stay. The low turnover of 7% versus 19% for comparably-sized grocery store chains enables Wegmans to redirect the money it would have spent on constant recruiting to the constant development of their folks. And with that, profitability has followed. Wegmans’ operating margins are estimated at 7.5% — double that of its competitors. And its sales per square foot are 50% higher than the industry average.

By throwing away the rule book, Wegmans prospers both financially and in the spirit of the people who work in its stores. Whether they’re putting away cans of garbanzo beans or sweeping the floor, everyone there knows that their decisions with customers stick. What portion of your rule book can you throw away?

Wegmans decided that no customer should leave unhappy. They trust the people serving customers in their stores to interpret what that means.

  • How would you rate your intent and ability to trust the majority of your employees? Or do you manage to the minority?
  • Can you identify just one rule you can throw away?
  • How would your employees say you are doing?
  • Do employees rave about how you trust them today?
  • How does your decision to free employees to deliver what’s best for customers compare with this beloved company?
  • Do your decisions for trusting your employees to do the right thing earn you “beloved” status today?
  • What do you need to do differently to move toward earning the rave of customers and employees?
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About Jeanne Bliss

As “Chief Customer Officer” for Lands’ End, Mazda, Coldwell Banker, Allstate, and Microsoft, Jeanne got “customer” on the strategic agenda, earned 98% loyalty rates, and changed experiences across 50,000-person operations. Jeanne now runs CustomerBliss to create an actionable path for profitability and business growth -- through earning customer and employee raves. Her best-selling books are Chief Customer Officer and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive

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