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Nurturing the Link Between Consumer Trust and Internal Business Confidence

A Message from Louise Broekman, CEO and Founder of the Advisory Board Centre:


This quarter, the Advisory Board community is driving conversations with business owners to reflect on what is happening in the corporate sector as it is a warning sign for all of us to lift our game.  It’s time for mid-market businesses to step up and demonstrate the leadership and commitment to quality that consumers and employees deserve.  This raises the 3 key trends to consider

  1. Put a spotlight on ethics in your internal decision making
  2. Focus to “Be Even Better”
  3. Take time to review if you are delivering on your Brand promise

These 3 key trends should form part of your Advisory Board conversations.  External Advisors are well placed to provide a new line of sight into internal operations and strategic imperatives for business owners and executives.


Ethics in Decision Making.

Business governance has dominated the headlines as an outcome of the Banking Royal Commission, the Senate Enquiry into Franchising and a general disconnect between the decision makers and those at the receiving end.  The erosion of trust means that a focus is required on “Ethics in Decision Making” as opposed to “Ethical Decision Making”.   This requires a deeper insight into the underlying systems, processes, KPI’s and cultural drivers that surround how decisions are made within businesses.

Insights from the Advisor Community

Making good decisions requires disseminating quality information, understanding different viewpoints and absolute clarity on why that decision is being made.  If you own or manage a business then you are making a decision for the benefit of that business – not yourself or for others.  If you want your business to be considered by your customers as the place to buy goods and services, and by your employees as a great place to work then the quality of your decision making will be better as it is values driven.  – Craig Hook, Certified Chair


Belief and trust in many businesses are at an all time low right now and many young people are choosing to go into startups themselves, rather than trust their future to established “old school” businesses this is transitioning the normal business model more quickly into contracting relationships to access good talent. – Jo Hanlon, Certified Chair


The Banking Insurance & Superannuation Royal Commission highlights the poor decision making in many of our financial institutions as results and remuneration were prioritised over client interests and ethics. The harsh spotlight of hindsight renders many of these decisions unfathomable but it is a timely reminder that we, as business owners/managers, must not compromise our integrity for short term gain or benefit. – Ray Hair, Approved Advisor


My view is the key metric is wrong. Too many people focus on the money and the personal gain. This tends to corrupt and lead to bad decisions. For example, commissions to bank employees pushed them into creating unconscionable loans. A start-up company distorts his acceptance in the market to get investors. A company listing is thought of as an exit event where people get financially rewarded and its not. It is just another step in funding. Money corrupts and creates bad decisions when the balance is wrong. We need to reward the right behaviours- Nigel Hennessy, Approved Advisor


One of the most challenging ethical decisions for small businesses is when they need to decide to accept the revenue potential of a client who has widely dissimilar values, i.e. regarding staff welfare. – Charlotte Rimmer, Approved Advisor


Customer driven-the people want to know that the decision makers are making ethical decisions. – Tara Parish, Approved Advisor


It is easier to make ethical decisions and practice good governance. Perhaps poor decision making is symptomatic of a poor business model, lack of (business) experience and focusing on the wrong goals.- Mark Dougal, Approved Advisor


This probably is most critical where a professional service is being rendered for the benefit of a client.  By saying this, I am not wanting to diminish the responsibilities of businesses where a product is sold however there are usually better standards and controls in place to manage customer interests in these situations. – Robert Condor, Approved Advisor


Be Even Better.

Be better than you were yesterday and better than your competition will be tomorrow.  Focus on improvement and open communication with employees and customers.

Insights from the Advisor Community

This focus is critical for success and is one of the factors which demonstrates the culture of the business – Sandy Deans, Certified Chair


In communication they say that complexity kills trust.  In business, complacency also kills trust.  Do not take your systems, processes, employees or customers for granted.  Push yourself and your products to be even better.- Jan Easton, Certified Chair


Independent Directors have a duty to speak up and the Chairs have an extra responsibility to create an environment in which it is OK to voice views that might differ from the group. This can be achieved by asking open questions and actively canvassing views.    De-personalising the debate “playing the ball and not the person” is something all directors can do. – Stuart Allinson, Certified Chair


Customers are better informed and know what to expect from their suppliers. A way to look at this is that in a modern and globally competitive environment the customer drives what a business produces. Communication is the key to knowing your customers and there is a range of ways business can communicate with their customers. A business needs to have access and know how to multiple communication channels. – Mark Dougal, Approved Advisor


I believe the key is transparency.   Customers desire honest, open and transparent communication not marketing spin. – Robert Condor, Approved Advisor


Quality is so subjective – business that have a “quality” process are great, but the ones that have quality as part of their core values are even better. – Michael Lang, Approved Advisor


Deliver on Your Promises.

The breakdown in consumer trust begins when a business fails to deliver on its promises.  This can be further exacerbated when employees feel a disconnect between the “brand promise” and the “everyday business” causing a decline in internal business confidence.

There is an increasing focus on businesses ensuring that they are delivering on their promises- from the products and services they provide to the marketing and brand they espouse.  This includes taking the time for quality reviews and self-reflection on personal and team performance- from the Board, to the Executives, to the front line employees.

Insights from the Advisor Community

Open communications mean that expectations can be managed. It is rare that 100% of everything is 100% right 100% of the time. Customers can tolerate imperfection if they are taken on the journey and the business is proactive about improving things. –Stuart Allinson, Certified Chair


The old axiom “under promise and over deliver” still applies. Service providers strive for excellent customer service and satisfaction by doing more than they say they will for the customer or exceeding customer expectations. Businesses need to measure the performance with regular surveys of the customers to ensure this focus is maintained. – Robert Righetti, Approved Advisor


Delivering a great customer experience must begin with ensuring the employee experience is aligned to the organisations’ brand values.  Your employees are the representatives of your brand and your interface with customers.  When employees are disassociated with brand values representation of the organisation’s expectations for improvements in communications or services provided to customers will always fall short. – Georgia Henry, Approved Advisor


There is a growing trend amongst agencies and clients in measuring performance to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of any investment from the client in the agency partnership. This is driven by clients as they incorporate regular and rigorous performance measurement as a prerequisite to any new agency partnership. – Clare Fernando, Approved Advisor


Are you having the right conversations for your business at an Advisory Board level?  Find out how an Advisory Board can support you to build internal confidence and improve the quality of decision making within your businesses.  Connect with the Advisory Board Centre to learn more.


About Author:

Louise Broekman
Louise is an award winning Entrepreneur, researcher and business advisor. Louise has received recognition from Industry and Government at a local and national level for her contribution to the Australian business sector. She is an in-demand speaker and is regularly called upon as the leading voice for Advisory Boards in the Asia Pacific region.