The one true currency a payment startup has is trust

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For a payment company or fintech to go from startup to global unicorn, you can’t borrow trust from someone else, you must earn it each and every day, and it must become part of the culture of your business. You can capture some of it in the form of deposits in an emotional bank account, but it is fragile and perishable, and it doesn’t have an unlimited shelf life.

When it comes to trust, technology can present many fantastic new ways to build and sustain trust with customers. But in an increasingly digital world, nothing can ever replace the bond-building strength of two people talking about a problem or an opportunity and communicating personally. Understanding one another’s needs and concerns and expressing, in very human tones, a shared definition of the basis for trust between the two parties.

That’s not to say that technology shouldn’t act as a complement to enhance direct communication with customers. Data, for example, can be used to better understand a customer’s holistic experience across all touch points to create more personalization and consistency, which helps to increase trust.
Many companies and leaders think the most limiting resource they have is the budget allotted to perform their business activities. That’s certainly understandable… money can be a hugely constraining factor to feed growth, build a team, update operating systems, and invest in new platforms. So, yes, capital is definitely an important element to any company’s success.

But once a reasonable level of capital is available, then the really hard work begins, the task of building and developing trust with teammates and customers.

The byproduct of successful trust-building becomes the fuel that feeds an enterprise’s ability to produce sustainable growth and success. For this reason, I believe that trust is the more limited form of capital because it is so hard to create and so easy to lose – no matter what stage of growth your company is in.

So, thinking about trust is a critical success factor for any senior leader. First, a couple definitions of what this word "trust" means.

Trust is an emotional connection between two people or companies that is based on reliable, predictable patterns of behavior that match the parties’ shared expectations. Trust is bilateral, meaning it must exist in both relationship directions in order for it to exist at all. If I trust you but you don’t trust me, does trust really exist? No.

Trust is created through a series of frequent positive interactions. The parties may enter a new relationship with expressed or unexpressed trust needs that are either reinforced or refuted through their interactions. Therefore, each party’s need to understand the other’s ‘trust basics’ is critical.

While it takes a pattern to build trust over time, it can be destroyed by one act in a single moment. Recovery is possible but must be executed perfectly to really reestablish what existed before the negative act.

In theory, this should be easy. Make commitments to customers or teammates about what to expect, and relentlessly execute. Simple, right? Wrong. Plans go awry, communication breakdowns happen, systems underperform, and service mistakes take place. These are the realities with which every business leader must cope

So, perfection is not the realistic outcome, but truly outstanding service recovery is. Explain what happened, take accountability, and do everything in your power to make it right. Communicate in direct, plainspoken language delivered person to person with a tone of humility and candor, not in cryptic corporate-speak.

Raising awareness across any company about the importance of trust is an existential communication essential, and that is the reason why I believe it is the only real currency we have to spend in the digital age.

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