To develop proper relationships with customers, companies have to create trust. Clearly, employees have to meet customers’ needs and provide all the necessary assistance and support.
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Services provided have to be timely or else the customer will address another company. Researchers note that reliability and character-based trust are essential for proper customer service performance and development of effective relationships between the company and its clients. It has also been acknowledged that these types of trust can be (and should be) utilized in different settings.
First of all, it is important to distinguish between character-based trust and reliability. Character-based trust “examines qualitative characteristics of behavior inherent in… Strategic philosophies and cultures” (Moser, 2007, p. 153).
In other words, the personal qualities of employees and customers, as well as values that constitute the company’s culture, play an essential role in building trustful relationships between the company and the customer. Customers tend to cooperate with people who share similar values and have certain features of character. Some prefer working with humorous people; others tend to address kind, patient and supportive, and so on.
At the same time, reliability is based on competence and previous behavior rather than on specific features (though personal features may also play an important role) (Baran, Galka & Strunk, 2008). For an instant, the customer starts to trust the company (or particular employees) after several cases of successful cooperation.
Hence, if a person addressed an employee who managed to provide a high-quality service, he/she considers the employee to be reliable, the one he/she can trust and address in the future. Importantly, the customer may even dislike some personal features of an employee, but still, think the employee is reliable.
Even though the customer dislikes the person in this or that way, he/she may still address the employee who will provide high-quality services. It is noteworthy that the customer has quite short interactions with the employee in that case. Buying a product, receiving an answer to a particular question can be examples of such interactions.
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Nonetheless, it is necessary to add that when it comes to collaborative relationships, character-based trust is critical. Collaborative relationships imply active participation of the customer and the employee (or several employees). Baran et al. (2008) note that collaborative relationships are associated with personification as people interact quite closely. In other words, the customer may want to interact with an employee who has a certain set of characteristics.
Admittedly, the customer will not choose to communicate for a considerable amount of time with an employee he/she dislikes. Therefore, for collaborative relationships, it is essential to develop character-based trust. The customer has to rely on the employee and expect a certain kind of communication.
In the case of collaborative relationships, reliability is not enough, as the customer will have to communicate with the employer, which is associated with the development of certain kind of personal relationships based on mutual respect and positive attitude. Hence, character-based trust is central to the collaborative relationships.
To sum up, it is possible to note that character-based trust and reliability are important in different settings. When it comes to particular services, reliability is essential and it is enough. However, when it comes to collaborative relationships where the customer and the employer have to communicate for a significant period, character-based trust is central as it enables to develop proper communication patterns between the stakeholders.
Baran, R.J., Galka, R.J., & Strunk, D.P. (2008). Principles of customer relationship management. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Moser, R. (2007). Strategic purchasing and supply management: A strategy-based selection of suppliers. Boston, MA: Springer Science & Business Media.