Tip 15: Trust your customers

There’s just something empowering about the honor system. It shows you don’t expect your customers to do dumb stuff or steal from you. When you trust your customers will do the right thing, and won’t try to stick it to you, it often inspires them to rise to the occasion as they prove worthy of the trust they’ve been bestowed. It gets pretty tough to build a relationship with someone when you do things that imply you don’t trust them.


1. Back in 2012 when I was supposed to be indoors waiting out Superstorm Sandy, I was roaming the streets of Philadelphia in search of something to eat. The city was nearly a ghost town with very few people walking around, and even fewer businesses open. As I walked block, after block, after block in the rain in search of an open place – I passed by a restaurant with a group of gentlemen sitting by the window.

Inside I ordered a bowl of soup and a caesar salad. While waiting for the food I chatted it up with the waiters (I was the only customer in the restaurant). When my food was ready, I went to go pay the way I always pay for things: with my credit card. “Sorry, we’re cash only.” Oh no! My pursuit of food had brought me so close – and now it was looking like I wasn’t going to be able to get it because I didn’t have enough cash. “But I only have $5,” I said sadly.

“Don’t worry about it! Bring it in next time!” everyone said unison. All of them, without hesitation. I was in awe. And I was so thankful. These people didn’t know me at all. They had never seen me before. They didn’t know I was an honest person. They had no idea if they would ever see me again – or the payment for the food I was about to take. I went back to La Viola a few days later to pay my debt and to get some lunch.

2. One year I got my teeth cleaned at the dentist just before the holidays. While reviewing my chart, the hygienist noticed that it was also time for dental x-rays. Then she said, “I know you were only expecting to pay for the cleaning today, and it’s the holiday season. If you need to, you can pay for the x-rays in the new year.” I thought it was so sweet that the office trusted me enough to pay later for a service they were rendering that day. I paid my bill in full that day. For both the cleaning and the x-rays.


  1. Take inventory of your policies and customer touch points at regular intervals. As you are going through them, assess whether or not your policies are communicating that you trust your customers.
  2. If you feel like the customers you have will take advantage of you if given the opportunity, then your fix is to focus on attracting a totally new kind of customer. A customer that is trustworthy.

Application for your business

  1. Write down an instance when you felt like a business treated you like you were untrustworthy. How did it make you feel? Next write down a time when you felt like a business trusted you completely. How did that experience make you feel?
  2. Brainstorm three ways you can make your customers feel like you trust them.

Previous tips

  1. Act like you want your customers to stick around
  2. See your customers as individuals
  3. Use the sweetest sound in any language
  4. Remember your customers’ names
  5. Pay attention to your customers
  6. Engage your customers
  7. Get to know your customers
  8. Listen to your customers
  9. Don’t let your customers hear the sound of crickets
  10. Get feedback from your customers
  11. Remember their love for peanut butter
  12. Understand your customers’ needs
  13. Remember special occasions
  14. Be personable