Earning Trust, Earning Money

In a recent column for Inc., Jason Fried described a month in which one of his company’s services — Campfire — experienced some technical issues that caused problems for customers who have come to rely on the service. Now, I’ve been a fan of Fried’s for a while thanks to his company’s blog and a book he co-authored, but I was challenged and inspired by his explanation for giving every Campfire subscriber a free month of service:

“Besides, we didn’t earn our customers’ trust in December, so we didn’t earn their money, either. We have thousands of paying Campfire customers, so this wasn’t a cheap or easy decision. But it was the right thing to do.”

It’s difficult to imagine a sentiment than runs more contrary to modern corporate culture. Every company that can get away with contracts, early termination fees, and exclusive offerings (AT&T and its ilk come to mind), does so without hesitation. Why? Because once you sign on the dotted line, you’re the one on the hook — not the company.

So while you have to consort with a faceless corporation if you want a mobile phone, it doesn’t hurt to be on the lookout for companies interested in earning your trust. But how do you know if a company is interested in earning your trust? Here’s a hint: If you call Customer Service and get a recording that says, “Your call is important to us,” you can be certain that your call is not important to them.

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