Mutual Trust: The Key to Lasting Customer and Service Provider Relationships

Submitted by Anne Tulek on Mon, 06/28/2021 - 15:07
Mutual Trust in Business

There is a lot of information and advice available on how to attract customers and select service providers. But how do you ensure the customers and service providers you choose are right for your business? How do you decide?

When your business is helping companies transform aspects of how they operate, the importance of mutual trust is absolutely paramount. As a company founder, I have given this a lot of thought.

In my long career, I’ve operated in settings with and without mutual trust. You don’t need me to tell you which were more fulfilling. Sometimes trust was lost because of my own missteps. Sometimes another did the misstepping. Other times, the foundations for mutual trust were simply missing all along.

How does mutual trust in business relationships look? What are the foundations of mutual trust? Let’s explore.

Putting the cards on the table

How many times has someone in your work life referred to “putting the cards on the table”? This is a way to invite parties to reveal:

  • The way things really are (usually imperfect)
  • How someone actually feels about a project or idea (often conflicted), or
  • What drove them to set their strategic direction.

What if your client/provider relationship could be so authentic that you never need to characterize exchanges this way? What if you could always trust that you got the “real scoop” from each other in every conversation? In my career, striving for that level of transparency is worthwhile. It spares both parties unnecessary energy otherwise spent positioning and jockeying. Transparency is the basis for real connection and authentic relationship.

Shared vision and goals

In this kind of client/provider relationship, you have both put your cards on the table. You have shared what you hope to achieve, for the initiative, for your teams, and for yourselves. For example, the client might want to shorten decision cycle time, improve visibility, and reduce costs. As the service provider, your goal is to serve the client’s goals and interests. In a mutually trusting relationship, it is also appropriate to tell your client how this work supports your company's goals.

Shared values

Values are easy to write down:

  • Work with Integrity.
  • Meet Commitments.
  • Delight Customers.
  • Continuously Learn.

…You get the idea. It is worth comparing your lists between client and service provider. Of course, you will likely find overlaps in meaning, if not in exact words.

Where does the rubber hit the road on this exercise? On one level, that happens in the routine daily work life your teams share together. Most folks can operate within their stated value system when things are going well. The next level is more revealing: On those inevitable rough days do you each continue to live out your values? The temptation of shortcuts pulls strong in such moments. How each party handles the hard moments can let you know whether you actually share values or just say you do.

Mutual support

Think about your client/provider relationships for a minute. Do you think to refer each other for new opportunities beyond your shared project? Does your client have unique knowledge to present at a prestigious industry conference? Nominate them! Your company colleague or supplier is facing a technical challenge? Refer them to your service provider for help. You receive a free slot for specialized training? Offer it to your client or one of their valued team members instead of taking it yourself. Be vocal in your support of each other in the industry and help each other navigate challenges you face.

Joyful work and relationships

Careers and companies don’t grow in isolation. Find clients and service providers who:

  • Are transparent
  • Share your vision, goals, and values, and
  • Are supportive beyond the bounds of contracted work.

Be those things for them, too.

When that happens, you can find joy in the work you do and in the relationships you grow. Creating this kind of joy for our trusted customers is what drives me and is why Abundiant exists. You can even see it in our name.

Wishing you abundant joy in your work,