The Truth About Trust – a book review with practical lessons for customer success


I recently read The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More by David DeSteno and found many relevant observations for us in the customer success and support field, where developing trust with customers is so important. Here are 6 practical lessons, carefully culled from the book for their relevance to our jobs.

  • Find common ground. People are more likely to trust people who are similar to them.
  • Be in the right emotional state. When we enter a situation angry or nervous, we are less likely to trust others (and, on the other hand, when we feel extremely calm we may trust someone we should trust). This explains why it’s so difficult to turn around customers once they have reached a state of anger. And why taking a moment to allow emotions from a prior conversation to dissipate before starting the next one is good discipline.
  • Expertise counts. Trust stems from integrity and competence. Integrity is great but when the choice is between integrity and expertise, most of us choose expertise. This is why abrasive, but super-knowledgeable engineers can have a fan club despite their unpleasantness.
  • Trust your hunches: Our unconscious mind is made to measure trust, and is less amenable to our own influence than our rational mind.
  • Power can break trustworthiness. Powerful people are more likely to disregard the trust that less powerful individuals may place in them if doing so furthers their own ends. The memorable example from the book is that BMW drivers are less likely to stop for pedestrians than drivers of more modest cars. For our purposes, it’s very useful to establish what I call a trusted peer relationship with customers to avoid the trust-busting effects of unequal power relationships.
  • Look them in the eyes. People conversing face to face are much better at predicting behaviors than those who use a written medium. Face-to-face may not be practical with customers, but a phone conversation is a lot better than email or IM. And if you do have the luxury of face-to-face conversation, remember that individual gestures mean little: analyze nonverbal cues in sets, not individually.

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