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The Power of Business to Business Trust

Is it possible to systematically develop trust to a mutual competitive advantage in B2B?

This is the question I have been wrestling with since I enrolled on a Doctoral research programme at the University of Southampton four years ago. From years of working in customer experience – witnessing, first hand, the disastrous effects caused by trust breaking down, while simultaneously, seeing how organisations flew when they genuinely developed mutually trusting relationships, I became curious.

Was it possible, I wondered, to isolate the dynamics involved in developing trust, and develop a systematic way to embed trust within organisations?

Here’s an example, from my research, showing the positive power mutually trusting relationships can unleash

To say the relationship between a major utilities’ provider and it’s out sourced information and technology provider had broken down would be an understatement. Neither side would engage, and trust resided at a contractual level.

A change at the customers leadership level coincided with a change in supplier client director which laid the foundation to improve the situation.

Once the new incumbents had settled in, they explored and searched for a catalyst that could start to turn things around and re-build trust.

This is where I came in and undertook research aimed at identifying: what was currently working and what wasn’t from both sides of the relationship at leadership, operation and staff/interpersonal levels.

Both sides of the relationship were interviewed at the three levels and critical incidents identified that were building or dilution trust.

For the first time, both teams were bought together to share the findings and participate in a feedback workshop. Workstreams were developed from the workshop findings and co-owned across the relationship. These ranged from the development of a relationship vision and charter to fixing the small big things that were undermining trust building.

The relationship has developed in the last two years from contractual / risk based trust to trusted partner, co-creation and collaboration are now the norm and at a recent suppliers leadership conference the relationship was held up as a bets practice example.

Trust is at an all time high between both sides and at all levels: from strategy to the execution and seeing the effect. It took courage and vision to embrace the pursuit of a trust based relationship, however they are now enjoying the power of trust in moving the relationship forward.