Growth by trust

Respect and trust are such potent client relationship tools. LOUIS COUTTS

Louis Coutts

By Louis Coutts

For ecological and nostalgic reasons, I hate to trade in a car on a new one. Every new car is an additional drain on the resources of the earth.

So, we have this wonderful 17 year old SAAB turbo. Electrically heated seats, sun roof, leather seats, still going well and being used by one of our children who is not the most gifted in using gear boxes. (When I learnt to drive there was not such thing as synchro mesh gears and we had to learn how to “double de-clutch”).

This wonderful car that had served the family so well died because the gear box gave up the ghost. Everything else about the car was great.

I hawked it around to quite a few places and they quoted the earth for a second hand gear box and twice the earth to replace the thing. So I went to the place where we bought the car 17 years earlier.

Dean was in charge of service and he said that it wasn’t worth fixing. They would have to charge $3000 to fix the car and it wasn’t worth that amount of money. He pleaded with me not to spend the money. I said “Dean, where would I get a car like this for $3000?” and he was unable to tell me. So I said “I appreciate how you have tried to help me by not spending money with you, but I think I will go ahead”.

So they did the work. and Dean bent over backwards to save money where he could and ended up doing the job for less than everyone else had quoted. I picked the car up and it was as good as new.

I always intended to go back to Dean to tell him what a great job he had done, but never got around to it until recently; I had to visit a client who was directly opposite the SAAB place where Dean worked. So I walked in and told Dean what a great job he had done some 12 months earlier and that the old SAAB was still going strong.

I told him that someone had just run into the back of my wonderful new German car and had written it off, not to mention what he had done to me. As a result I was back driving the old SAAB. Dean, who ran the service department, asked me if I was in the market for a new car (which I was) as they were running out last year’s model.

A day later we were driving a new SAAB. Dean had built up a degree of trust. On the one hand he tried unsuccessfully to talk us out of spending money, but on this occasion felt so confident that the last car they had in the run out was such a good deal that we ought to talk to the sales people. So we did.

(Incidentally, we didn’t go back to the distributor of the German car who tried to charge me $4 for windscreen wiper fluid when I had just filled the reservoir to the brink the night before the service.)

So, here we were, spending quite a lot of money because of the trust that had been generated by a guy who tried to talk us out of spending $3000. (It was a bit like the Miracle on 34th Street where the stand-in Santa Claus was about to get the sack from Macy’s because he had been giving advice to customers as to where they could go to purchase things that Macy’s didn’t have in stock when management started to receive messages from customers as to how grateful they were to Santa Claus for his disinterested advice.)

We really love the new car although it didn’t live up to its representation to fuel economy of 5.1 litres/100kms. We only got 5.3 on a trip to Sydney, admittedly stuck on 110km/hr.

Anyway, shortly after buying the new SAAB, we had an invitation to join them at the Melbourne Food festival where they hosted a lounge to which we were invited and to participate at their expense in the food and wine provided at the festival. My wife and I had a great time and the manager of the distributor from whom we purchased the SAAB came up and thanked us for giving up our time to be with them that evening. He explained that they were not big on advertising. They felt that they built longer lasting relationships if they worked more at a personal level and built trust with their customers in the hope that they would feel valued and come back to them.

If you look at the cost of advertising as against the cost of building relationships built on trust, you would be staggered at how many customers you have to get to compensate for the cost of advertising. The tried and true story of building relationships based on trust and mutual respect is a great formula for success and growth. It might not be spectacular, but the world is still waiting for a substitute.

Incidentally, when we bought the car, we mentioned to the manager that his salesman (who was a nice and helpful guy) didn’t sell us the car. Rather, his service manager sold it by desperately trying to talk us out of spending our money on repairs to our 17 year old SAAB!

Wouldn’t you love to believe that your growth is a product of how much you are respected and trusted in the market place?


Louis Coutts left law and became a successful entrepreneur. His blog examines the mistakes, follies and strokes of genius that create bigger, better businesses. Click here to find out more.

To read more Louis Coutts blogs, click here .



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