How Are You Making Deposits in Your Customers’ “Reservoir of Trust”?

Leaders at companies like Starbucks have found ways to maintain strong emotional bonds with their customers and achieve their business objectives despite a landscape of heightened consumer empowerment and corporate cynicism. At the center of these sustained emotional bonds is a leadership principle that I refer to as “Love to Be Loved.”     – Joseph Michelli, Leading the Starbucks Way

Somewhere along your education journey, you were probably exposed to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarch of Needs: physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization. According to Maslow, basic survival requirements take precedence over more evolved social and transformational needs.

According to organizational consultant Joseph Michelli, Maslow’s theory is also relevant to understanding the perceptions of customers of your organization. Theorists and researchers at the Gallup Corporation have defined a hierarchy of customer perceptions that escalate from low levels to full customer engagement.

In the Gallop model, the first hurdle a company must face is the question, “Are you competent?” If you are to ensure a more secure relationship with your customers, they must be able to address the second question, “Can I predict that this company will demonstrate fairness and consistency in the way it delivers products and experiences?” A positive answer to that question demonstrates the company operates with integrity. Being perceived as having integrity established the opportunity for customers to experience a heightened level of emotional engagement – “pride.” Customer pride comes when your organization is viewed as a positive force in your customers’ lives or in the lives of others they care about. The pinnacle of Gallup’s customer engagement hierarchy is passion. The customer feels your organization is perfect for him, and he can’t live without it.

Trust is the gateway emotion on a journey to greater levels of engagement.

Based on Michelli’s observations, Starbucks leaders strive to demonstrate morality in their actions by making deposits in their stakeholder’s reservoir of trust (a phrase coined by CEO Howard Shultz). This is accomplished by:

  1. Empathetically looking at business decisions through the lens of humanity
  2. Communicating straightforward intent, acknowledging shortcomings, and keeping promises
  3. Balancing the competing interests of stakeholders
  4. Creating operational systems and quality improvement processes to deliver a consistently reliable product
  5. Establishing training and empowering partners to deliver service recovery

ChurchWorld Application

  1. Based on the hierarchical stages of customer engagement discussed above, but transferred into the world of Guest Experiences at your church, how do most of your Guests, attenders, and team members perceive your organization? Are you “competent” at what you do? Do your team members display a sense of “pride” in serving in ministry? Does your organization have a sense of “integrity” as recognized by your community – even those who have no connection to your church? Finally, is a sense of “passion” displayed by constituents – even to a degree that their lives are enriched because of their connection to your organization?
  2. How well does your organization “make deposits in the reservoir of trust” for your stakeholders? How would you grade yourself in each of the areas listed above?

SB Barista group

How Starbucks Moves Forward with Greater Levels of Engagement

  • A team approach to product development and implementation, along with rigorous testing, leads to earning trust through consistency.
  • Partners are trained and developed to create inspired moments by defining those service behaviors that should “always” or “never” occur at Starbucks.
  • From the earliest training, partners are provided with the resources and autonomy to resolve customer complaints or concerns.
  • The only way to become beloved is to be loving.

Michelli makes this closing point:

Customers who make extremely strong emotional connections with a company actually perceive their preferred brands as extensions of their personality and integrate the brands into their rituals, lifestyle, and identity.

Part 4 of a series in the 2013 GsD Fall Term

Leading the Starbucks Way: Information, Insights, and Analysis Needed to Create a High-Performance Guest-Oriented Organization 

inspired by and adapted from Leading The Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli



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