June 30, 2008

Earning Customer Trust - and Trusting the Customer

Community
Last week I listened to a story about a small shoe repair shop as told by one of their long-time customers. It's a heart-warming business story that I think you'll enjoy. Blairsville Shoe Repair is located on Booger Hollow in the North Georgia mountain area. The sole proprietor is a cobbler at night - he holds down a delivery job during the day. His shoe repair business is built on a self-service model and depends on the honor system. Customers leave their shoes for repair in a converted newspaper vending machine located on his front porch. Shoes that are ready for pick-up as well as the money folder are also in the machine. Yes, the money folder - customers pick up their shoes and leave their payment, and in 25 years he has never come up short. In today's competitive environment we can read plenty about earning the customer's trust. However; you don't see much written about trusting the customer. Can you earn the customer's trust without first trusting the customer? Free software evaluation downloads are a form of two-way "Booger Hollow" trust. The evaluator gets value in the form of free use of the software for a trial period (expensed R&D / intellectual property) in exchange for some degree of personal information. Now, the "exchange rate" is sometimes a point of discussion; that is to say, how much personal information is too much to ask for in exchange? It's a difficult question and software vendors vary on the topic. How would you manage the exchange on Booger Hollow?