Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Do You Trust Your Customers? Do Your Customers Trust You?

I just returned from Influence 2017, the annual conference put on by the National Speakers Association. My friend and one of the world’s authorities on trust, David Horsager was one of the amazing keynote speakers. He shared an excellent customer service example that can be summed up this way: Trust your customers and they will trust you.

The quick version of the story is this: A farmer owns a fruit and vegetable stand where his customers pay on the honor system. They simply go over to the money jar and put the appropriate amount of money into the jar. If they need change, they make their own. He trusts his customers to do what’s right, and it pays off.

First, the farmer saves money by not having to hire a cashier. Next, he saves money by not having to buy rubber gloves that he has to change every time he touches money and then switches back to touching the produce. That also saves him time, which is, ultimately, money. But most of all, he gets loyal customers that come back, buy more, spend more when they buy and feel valued. That’s because he trusts his customers, and they trust him.

Customers want to be trusted. After all, would you want to do business with a company that feels like they don’t trust you? Are we guilty of having a process or rules that send the message to the customer, “We don’t trust you.”?

A couple of years ago I shared an example that helps make this point. Guitar Center, one of my favorite stores, had a pretty hefty system to prevent shoplifting. As you walked in, they had a desk that had a full-time employee checking equipment that was brought into and out of the store. It turned out that the anti-shoplifting desk was costing dramatically more to manage and staff than the cost of the merchandise they were losing to dishonest customers. And even worse than that, it was also insulting their honest customers. This is an example of punishing all the customers for the sins of a few. The good people at Guitar Center figured this out and eventually did away with their expensive anti-shoplifting system.

You want your customers to trust you enough to buy from you. So, don’t create friction by putting up barriers with a process that makes them feel like you don’t trust them. It will raise a red flag. It will make them feel uncomfortable, and as mentioned, even insulted.

One of Horsager’s favorite lines is, “A lack of trust is your biggest expense.” He’s a smart man. He gets it. Do you?

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

  1. First, I love the cartoon! Now, about trust…I’ve been to fruit & vegetable stands that operate that way in New Jersey. As a native born Brooklyn girl, my wife was shocked to see the money tray just sitting out with no one around. (The farmer had gone to get more peaches.)

    I can tell you that we did pay a bit more for the sweet corn and Jersey tomatoes we picked up that day. I wanted to as a way of saying, “Thanks for your trust!”

    Another example…their are two grocery stores run by the same chain about 5 miles apart here on Staten Island. At about the same time a few years ago, they both installed self-price scanning guns…the kind that allow you to scan your product, bag it, and then scan the gun at checkout to pay for the items you’ve bagged. We LOVE IT! Saves time. Everything is bagged by the time you get to the check out. It’s great! Well, after about a year, one of those two stores discontinued the service. When I asked why, they said that too many people were bagging items they didn’t scan. I asked the store manager from the location that still offered the service about that. He’s response, “It happens….but we refuse to punish the our honest customers because of the actions of a few.” TRUST – he gets it! And that is where we shop all the time now!

  2. Jeff Toister says:

    Trust and customer service often go hand-in-hand. While I can’t speak for a farm stand, I can say from experience that the few bad customers who shoplift are far likely to target a store with great customer service. Why? Because someone will be there to greet them!

    My wife and I own a vacation rental where we also grapple with trust. People steal. They break things. The lesson for us is that’s a small group and most guests are great! Here’s a recent post about it:

    • Hi Jeff – Did you mean that the shoplifters are less likely to target a store with great customer service? When shoplifters are greeted and have interactions with employees, research shows they would rather move on to a store where they feel they are invisibile.

      • Hi Shep! Oooops, there was a typo in my comment. Yes, shoplifters are far *LESS* likely to target a store with great customer service. Shoplifters prefer stores where nobody greets them or pays them any attention.

  3. Shep, I have worked retail sales and Customer/ Guest Service since I started working at McDonald’s back in high school and I am a mid-50 gal now. The one and only time I had the displeasure of a shoplifter experience was when I worked at a Disney Store in Honolulu. This particular “Josephine” (males were known as “Joes”) was a teen about 14 or 15 – who left both my manager and myself open mouthed in astonishment when she told us that she did this all the time – and so did her Dad! So much for a caring and ethical family situation, but that fact remains that if I hadn’t caught her packing a backpack sold in our store with lots of other goodies from our store, simply by turning a corner and asking if she needed any help, she might have gotten out with many expensive small items. As it turned out, she and her family were blacklisted by the mall several weeks before this incident, so – unfortunately trust was given, but definitely backfired in this case. I can’t help but wonder what happened with her homelife and future and I still remember feeling really bad about her situation. My dad passed before I was 11 years old and I grew up with a younger sister and two younger brothers. My mom was our means of support and many times we went without “fancy things” – but I never felt the need to steal! Thank goodness for strong family values- something I feel are missing in so many families today. Must be a sign of the times, sad to say!

  4. Yes, the article I was looking for. Your article gives me another approach on the subject. I hope to read more articles from you.

  5. Jonathon Thomas says:

    The article was really interesting. I have been in many situations where I see lack of customer services mainly in Clothing department stores from my experience. I remember in one store , where i was trying to buy some shirts . This one staff was so annoying that we was just following me to whole store. At first i thought he was being generous that he was trying to help me with selecting shirt but later i noticed that every shirts i try he used to take and hang it to its place. And he even said= I think you didn’t like any of our shirts, and new lot will come after 2/3 months while i was still trying the shirt on. I was so annoyed that i never visited the store again and i even recommended my friends not to visit there.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Very disappointing that you were treated that way. And, now you won’t buy from them. And, won’t recommend them. Companies must recognize how important it is to deliver good service to their customers. Otherwise, they will find their customers will respond just as you have.

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