Skip to main content

Communicating trust

How to Develop and Build Trusting Relationships with your Customers.

All business relationships will share an element of risk during a transaction. The level of risk a business is prepared to take will depend on the perceived trust between the provider of services and the requester of services. 

This is particularly critical in situations where the provider cannot be forced to co-operate in assisting or delivering services to the requester. It is in these situations where trust is a valuable quality and will greatly influence the likelyhood of a satisfactory transaction.

Communicating trust

What is trust?

Two quotes that I believe best describes trust in a business relationship are:

  •  "Trust is a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another." Rousseau [1] 
  • "An individual's belief in, and willingness to act on the basis of, the words, actions, and decisions of another." Lewicki [2]

In order to measure the level of trust in a relationship, the attributes or qualities of trust in both provider and requester must be determined. The overall weight of these trust attributes can then be balanced, provider attributes against requester attributes, to determine whether the resulting trust has a positive or negative influence on the relationship. 

Important provider attributes that will influence trust are: 

  • the level of reputation or integrity of the provider 
  • the level of benevolence of the provider 
  • the level of ability (knowledge, skill, competency) of the provider 

Important requester attributes that will influence trust are: 

  • the level of reliance on the provider 
  • the level of confidence in the provider 
  • the level of immediacy or desperation of the requester 

It is therefore these measurable attributes of the provider and the requester that must be developed in order to build trust.

[1] Rousseau, D. M., Sitkin, S. B., Burt, R. S., and Camerer, C. (1998). "Not so Different After All: A Cross-Discipline View of Trust," in Academy of Management Review, 23, 393-404.

[2] Lewicki, R. J., McAllister, D. J., & Bies, R. J. (1998). Trust and distrust: New relationships and realities. Academy of Management Review, 23, 438-458.

Levels of trust

Identifying Discrete Levels of Trust

When analysing trust between businesses, initially it will appear to be identifiable by a simple linear scale. 

This scale could indicate a value from no trust increasing to implicit trust. 

However, when reviewing trust between long term business partners, it becomes apparent that relationships are complex. In these cases the relationship has matured to a state where the provider and requester have shared, adopted and combined their reputation, intentions, beliefs and culture. 

With long term relationships, repeated tests of trust will establish a deeper understanding of shared values. Trust will change and mature to higher levels when emotional connections between provider and requester become stronger. Common goals will establish themselves resulting in an awareness and concern for mutual needs to keep the trusted relationship strong.

Developing and Building Trust 

Trust will only evolve between provider and requester if the trust attributes are nurtured and developed:


Reputation and integrity

Be consistent 

Behave in a consistent and predictable way. 

Develop communication processes to ensure that any correspondence is followed by action. Honour your commitments to reinforce your integrity of 'We do what we say we will do'. 

Open dialogue 

Communicate openly. Give accurate and impartial information to the best of your abilities. Your motives should be clear. As you are willing to act transparently, you can be measured for compliance with any agreements.



Show concern 

Demonstrate sensitivity to the requesters needs, desires and interests. If the requester can see any self-interest in the transaction that puts them at a disadvantage, the trust will appear to be lost. 

Be sincere

Demonstrate your willingness to earn their trust. Disclose your motives and intentions fully and openly. Take actions that promote your values that you desire their trust.



Perform competently 

Perform to published guidelines and operating procedures. Demonstrate proficiency in carrying out your obligations. Keep your skills and abilities up to date and promote your qualifications. 

Share control 

By giving trust, trust will be returned. Avoid hoarding control by inviting others to share decision making.

Influence ability


Create collaboration agreements. 

Establish environments where both parties gain, both short term and long term. Build collaborative networks where trusted partners are encouraged to create joint ventures. Ensure that these collaboration agreements make positive results easier and more likely. 

Become partners. 

Act as an agent and promote each partners products and services. Consider creating joint products. This will result in a shared identity that defines their commonality. This can be strengthened with unified services and activities.



Create a common identity

Share marketing strategies and build unity and coherence in a group message. Promote shared values. Focus on their interests and and show concern by listening and learning about their needs. Demonstrate your confidence in them by recognising the contributions of others.

Marketing Workshops

Try our marketing workshops for FREE

The first FREE introductory workshop will cover the Business Posture section of the Strategy Builder training programme. 

This 45 minute call will cover the following areas: 

  • Splitting your marketing activities into customer acquisition and customer nurturing marketing strategies 
  • Add clarity to your objectives by asserting a well defined USP 
  • Generate a business posture by presenting value and results combined with your passion to deliver 

The complete workshop programme includes Marketing Analysis, Content Marketing, Information Architecture, Improving Communication and Measuring Success. These workshops can be arranged as 45 minute telephone / Zoom calls to be held once a week (a time and day that fits). Those companies who wish to take this further can arrange one-2-one training or join an existing workshop group held on Wednesdays or Thursdays.

I'm interested in
I am*