Subject: TRUST

Discussion
Jun 17, 2005
Al McClain

Editorial by Al McClain


According to a Gallup Poll cited in the 6-12-05 New York Times Magazine,
only eight percent of Americans trust big business "a great deal."
Here are the numbers:

 



 




There are lots of interesting things in these numbers, including the indication that none of these institutions are trusted “a great deal” by a majority of Americans, but since the retailing industry is really one giant big business, let’s take a look at that.

 

We spend a lot of time in these pages interpreting what the average shopper thinks and does, talking about ways to wring more efficiency out of the distribution system, and getting employees to do more work with a better attitude. Yet, for all the efforts of big business to “do better” and constantly make their quarterly numbers, one of the bottom lines is that only eight percent of Americans trust big business “a great deal.” Add that to “quite a lot” and you still only get twenty-two percent. Worse, big business ranks below Congress and TV news, and way below banks.

 

Could it be that for all the efforts to introduce new products, satisfy consumers, lower labor costs, satisfy employees, be more efficient, and so on, that we’re overlooking trust as something we need to work on? If consumers don’t trust you, really…what have you got? Have consumers noticed corporate big wigs going to jail, never ending line extensions that don’t really add value to peoples’ lives, constant legal and turf battles among big businesses, and poor service by airlines trying to take them somewhere? And are they just saying “we don’t trust these guys”?

 

Lots of big businesses do great things for lots of consumers to make their lives better. But, when big businesses as a whole are trusted just slightly more than HMOs, which are generally reviled, you know there’s a serious problem. Maybe all of us ought to work at getting our companies and industries to take a better look in the mirror, and see what we can really do to improve our relationships with consumers.


Moderator’s Comment: Are there retailers in business
today that are trusted by consumers? If yes, how is that trust demonstrated
and what did the retailer do to develop it?


Al McClain – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "Subject: TRUST"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Richard Alleger
Guest
Richard Alleger
15 years 8 months ago

It is never the steak and always the sizzle. The public handcuffing of company executives gives Americans good reason for skepticism…regardless of the good hard work from the operationally minded employees. Accountability must be baked into the equation and easily seen by the consumers.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

I see the early leader in the poll is “improve service,” and I’d agree. When you can never get anybody on the phone, and nobody in the store knows the answer or can find out, and “consumer rebates” never come back after you’ve sent in all the paperwork, you come to feel, and I think rightly so, that business doesn’t really care about the shopper. They care about having the lowest cost structure. Um, hello???

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 8 months ago
According to the Gallup Poll, May 23-26, 2005, over three-quarters of our citizens don’t trust HMOs, Big Business, Congress (whom we elect), TV news, the Supreme Court (which our elected Congress approves), the President (whom we elect), or Banks (whom we depend upon) a “GREAT DEAL.” This suggests that there is a more profound question to be asked beyond the question focusing on retailers, many of whom deserve our trust. Trust is a plant of very slow growth in the bosom of today’s increasingly cynical society, and deservedly so. Each time a “leaf of consumer confidence” is plucked or tarnished by someone or some vested event, it takes many seasons to restore the public’s trust. Unfortunately, too many events, i.e., poor service, lack of accountability, exuberant greed, false claims, etc., multiply at a greater rate than consistent examples of delivering on stated promises and expectancies. Trust is a by-product of actions, not words. Always, and in all ways, do the right thing … and do the right thing right. Trust will follow. It doesn’t grow… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 8 months ago
The lack of confidence in business doesn’t have much to do with people making bad decisions. What it has to do with is the lengths business and industry seems to go to “cover up” their mistakes. We only have to look back to the Ford Pinto, the Ford Police Cruisers, the Explorer, and now the Ford Cruise Control problems. In each of these cases, a great American company was told there was a problem with their product design that was killing people. In each of the above cases, they bobbed, weaved, dodged, and have done everything possible to avoid taking responsibility. With Enron, Arthur Anderson, Global Crossing, etc. following Ford’s lead, it’s no wonder that the Public is wary of US business in industry. I do think that there are some companies that work hard at doing the right thing – Whole Foods, Wild Oats, etc. They seem to have the right idea as far as looking at products and making decisions based on providing as little “additive” as possible. Hey, they may be actually… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 8 months ago

Caveat Emptor. Anyone who trusts a seller deserves what they get. Hurray for those polled by Gallup for their strong exhibition of healthy skepticism. Of course, thinking observers must factor “fashionable response” into these responses. Additionally, Gallup presents no definition of the public’s perception of what is meant by “big business.” I think of Enron, and I don’t see a warning sign for most retailers here.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
Great comments by all. As I read Gene’s piece, I could hear my father’s refrain “Love is freely given in our family, but trust and respect are earned every day.” To me, the Gallup poll’s overall message is deeper than the relative rankings of the institutions. Today’s society no longer implicitly trusts ANYTHING. Too much information available too readily, combined with the fact that “dog bites man” doesn’t sell news services, means we are inundated with the “bad stuff” about every institution and individual all day long. For big business in general, the public no longer regards the profit motive as a good thing. The assumption is that companies will lie, cheat and steal to make the infamous “quarterly number” for Wall Street, and the financial press has made us well aware of that fact. Add CEO greed stories to the mix, and where exactly do we expect that “trust” would be generated? Despite all that, there are retailers who remain above the fray. Outstanding examples in my experience are Cabela’s, Country Home Products, Lehman’s… Read more »
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 8 months ago

I think Ben Ball might be on to something when he says the public in general no longer regards the profit motive as a good thing. It’s really not so much that profits are bad, it’s how you get there and what lines companies are willing or not willing to cross to make more money. Costco is another retailer people trust – their policies of returns accepted without question is a big reason, in my mind. Another is that people know they treat their employees well.

Mark Barnhouse
Guest
Mark Barnhouse
15 years 8 months ago
I don’t know that we can interpret the bad showings of “big business” in the Gallup poll as being indicative of how the general public view large retailers–it’s too broad of a category, and why are banks a separate category at all? All banks are businesses (credit unions aside), and most are very large and getting larger. Not only that, but “big business” includes lots of companies–Halliburton, for example–that don’t provide services directly to consumers at all. Every consumer has a positive or negative feeling (on a sliding scale) about each retailer he or she patronizes. The same person who waxes rhapsodic about the glories of Whole Foods Market may be completely cynical and on guard when she goes to Home Depot on the same afternoon to pick up a bag of compost for the garden. So I don’t think we can necessarily infer that the entire retail category, as a subset of big business, is in as much trouble with the public as some might think. One other point about Whole Foods: it’s so… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
…’for all the efforts of big business to “do better” and constantly make their quarterly numbers’ – this is one of the key answers to your question, Al. When doing better is measured in terms of meeting financial targets presumably set by either Wall St or investors, then a company hasn’t got its priorities in the right order for building a sense of trust amongst its customers (or employees for that matter). Where efficiencies equate to cutting costs which equate to either cutting corners on quality, reducing the amount paid to suppliers and/or keeping employee costs down, then improvements in attitude and service are not likely to be achieved either. None of these activities fit comfortably under the heading of doing the right thing. I’m not entirely convinced that you are right in the initial proposition, either, that big business as defined by the pollsters refers to retailers. There are lots of other big businesses out there that people don’t trust, including manufacturers. Whatever the attitude towards retailers, and it may in fact be that… Read more »
Julie Pierce
Guest
Julie Pierce
15 years 8 months ago

I believe that most do not TRUST big businesses simply because most people that have worked or had a family member work for a big business deal with and are subjected to many ethics, integrity and moral issues that prove that the company is not to be trusted.

How can you trust big business when you work for a company that looks and feels unethical and has what you interpret as huge integrity issues?

How can you trust a business that casts aside general questions asked of its corporate officers?

Most Big Businesses seem to be immune to questions asked.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What is the one thing big business could do to improve consumer trust?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...