Listening to Warren Buffet speak on PBS last week, I related to his visual description of the state of our economy. The US economy is a stellar athlete, and that athlete just hit the floor. He is strong enough to survive, indeed strong enough to heal relatively quickly, but it is up to us to revive him and get him off the floor. That is our priority now.
Mr. Buffet's description is striking to me because I believe the events causing the athlete to "hit the floor" as he has described it have occurred in the past few months. Let me get to the "striking" part. The BBB just finished its second annual survey of American's trust in the companies we do business with. We found that in the past year, consumer trust has declined 14 points on average. Keep in mind that this survey was done April 07 to April 08. Therefore, what "strikes" me is how much has trust in business continued to erode now that Americans are aware of the condition of our star athlete? I suspect a significant amount.
It is this set of unfortunate circumstances that tends to significantly increase what I call "trust equity." That is, how important and valuable trust is becoming in the relationship between a business and its customer. At the very least, this economic environment will cause people to become wary and skeptical. At the very worst, it brings out a litany of con artists posing as the FDIC to conduct identity fraud, or posing as a concerned lending consultant to strip struggling consumers of what little they have left. Now more than ever, it's important that we know the reputation of the company taking our valuable dollars.
Can you trust the companies you do business with? Well, you can certainly get a better sense of their reputation by checking them out at bbb.org. If they've been around awhile, they probably know how to weather this kind of storm. If they have a few RESOLVED complaints, they probably care enough about their customers to work through issues when they arise. Do remember to take the size of business into consideration when you are evaluating the volume of complaints. Remember, there is only one sure way to a complaint-free report: if the company has no customers. There are bad consumers just like there are bad businesses, and we can't prevent them from filing a complaint. So the key is ... whether or not the company has resolved the complaint.
Track records of trust are more important than ever. If you have one, shout about it from the mountain tops. If you are getting ready to put your money anywhere, allow the BBB to help you be cautiously responsible. Check the company out and see how they're doing today. Warren Buffet says, "Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful." There are a lot of opportunities out there, and taking advantage of them now will keep our economy headed in the right direction. Happy shopping!