During my early high school years, a popular song was “Who Do You Love?” by Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. Ronnie lives near here now and you probably know the Hawks better as “The Band.” It is an early rock ‘n’ roll song written by Bo Diddley.
The question, “Who do you love?” was an important aspect of the early 60s. Not so much now. Today, the question is more like who do you trust?
In the 60s, people mostly trusted governments, banks, lawyers, priests and ministers, TV news anchormen, teachers, newspapers, and big businesses. You would be laughed at today if you said you trusted any of them.
Today, we establish trust in a different way. It is not institutional, nor even personal in the old way. It is personal, but in a new way. Trust must be earned and nurtured. Technology is the method of communicating it.
Would you buy something on EBay without checking the vendor’s accumulated customer experience score? Probably not. AirBnB and Uber both have trustworthiness ratings both for the provider and the customer. Amazon provides customer experience scores.
Trust, even this non-personal trust, lubricates commerce. It is efficient.
In olden days, we called it “Brand.” Campbell’s soup was exactly as you expected every time. Tide cleaned your clothes. Holiday Inn was a surprise free environment. You could buy the “Brand” without preliminary testing. Efficient.
We lost faith in the brands of large institutions and now rely on ratings found online. I recently had a computer repaired by someone I had never met or even heard of because he had very high ratings. It was a good experience. Ratings are becoming a brand. Do you use TripAdvisor or Yelp before going out to a new restaurant?
Internet based ratings are actually better in some ways. They are dynamic and they are contextual. On the down side they can be gamed, but only for a while. If you load your restaurant Yelp file with spurious high ratings, the result will be a more disappointing experience for real people. What might have been a 3 out of 5 score will become a 2 or worse. Remember that managing expectations is immensely important.
Technology based trust will be far more important in the future. It will travel with you and allow you to interact successfully with others. Most of the older institutions will disappear. I know young people who get their news exclusively from the net. Will that affect CBS? I think so. The same change is occurring in banking, brokerage services, new car sales, travel arrangements, and broadband access.
The idea of untrustworthy institutions and provably trustworthy individuals is a useful thing in the future. It will change the way we do business, advertise and behave. Notice early and reap the greatest benefits.
Trust is ultimately about information. The internet supplies vast quantities and as we learn to use it, each of us will develop our own brand.
I have recently decided that I trust no one and I hate that. I am pleased there are ways to overcome and I will be using more of them.
My new approach is simple. I trust God, the rest of you must bring evidence.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
Please be in touch if I can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org 866-285-7772