Book review: Extreme Trust by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers

Let’s get up to date

If you have been reading the recent posts you will know that I have been diving into, exploring and sharing what I have learned as I have been reading Extreme Trust the latest book by Don Peppers & Martha Rogers.  This weekend I finished reading the entire book and so this post is my, personal and biassed, review of the book.  If you have not read these first 2 – 3 posts then here are the links:

Extreme Trust: can honesty be a means of competitive advantage (part 1)

Extreme Trust: can honesty be a means of competitive advantage (part 2)

What kind of a book is Extreme Trust?  Think back to The One to One Future

How best to describe Extreme Trust the latest book by Don Peppers & Martha Rogers?  Perhaps the best place to start is to compare it with the other books Don and Martha have written.  Which is the book that is the closest to Extreme Trust in its flavour?  The One to One Future.   That book, The One to One Future,  was a delight to read and it said what needed to be said about the state of marketing and spelled out the future.  Extreme Trust has a similar flavour and had provided me with a similar experience.   What did I like about it?  What spoke to me?  In Extreme Trust, Don and Martha do the following effectively:

  • Inject human beings and in particular the social/co-operative/empathic being of human beings back into the whole Customer conversation – yes, look closely and you are likely to find that for all the talks about relationships the focus of the Customer movement has been on processes, data and technology (that is as true for Don and Martha as any other authors);
  • Address the ‘elephant in the room’, the greed based, short term focussed, deceitful/manipulative context of ‘business as usual’ which is oriented towards/focussed on extracting revenues and profits from customers usually by taking advantage of the ignorance/vulnerability/helplessness of customers;
  • Explore the theme of trust – why it matters, how it operates, what difference it makes, what benefits it delivers to social life and business/organisational life; and
  • Spell out the why/how organisations will have to become ‘trustable’ whether they want to or not – social technologies, smartphones and the fundamentally social/moral wiring of human beings make it inevitable

Extreme Trust is not a book about marketing, it is not a book about customer service, it is not a book about social media.  Extreme Trust, if read/viewed through a wide angle lens, is essentially about a new paradigm in business which involves and impacts everyone – the Tops, the Middles, the Bottoms, the Customer, the Community.  Essentially, Extreme Trust sets out a new philosophy of doing business based on an understanding of the social being of  human beings and how social media has given real weight to the hollow sounding expression “The Customer is King”.   If that is the background of the book than the customer and the relationship with the customer sits in the foreground and can best be encapsulated in the following diagram:

Let’s take a brief look at the chapters

The chapter headings are meaningful and so I want to share them with you and provide my brief take on each one.

“Trust: not just a good idea. Inevitable.”  Don and Martha make a persuasive argument for the importance of doing the right thing by customers proactively and they spell out the benefits of being trustable (USAA) and the downside of taking advantage of your customers (AOL).

“Serving the interests of customers, profitably”.  Here Don and Martha describe and point out the ‘flaws’ of ‘business as usual’ and argue that the central challenge for Tops is to come up with an appropriate business model for the time – a business model that allows the company to generate “good profits” and rule out “bad profits” by aligning the interests of the customer and the company.

“Trustability: capitalist tool”.  In this chapter Don and Martha ‘get real’ – they get that the lever for effecting change in business is through the profit motive as opposed to being good or doing good.  So Don and Martha strive to show you doing right by the customer, being a trustable company, leads to superior long term performance.  In short, trustability is an asset like ‘brand’ is or at least used to be.

“Sharing: not just for Sunday school”.  The social nature of human beings as evidenced by co-operation, sharing, reciprocity, sense of injustice and punishment of cheaters is explored here.  The key point is that we do not have to be encouraged to share, to cooperate, to reciprocate, to punish those that do not share/cooperate/reciprocate – to be human is to be/do this stuff effortless, it is the default.  Social production and the radical implications it has for business is touched upon here.

“Trust and the e-social ethos”.  In this chapter Don and Martha take the social being of human beings and look at/describe how this shows up in the e-social world of social networks.  The implications are explored through real life examples of companies that got it right and those that did not. This chapter is heavily linked with the previous one.

“Control is not an option”.  Business as usual can be characterised by “command-control-secrecy-spin”.  Well this used to work great and is now well past it’s sell by date.  The world is much more interdependent, fluid, unpredictable – just look at what has been happening since the financial crisis of 2008.  And anyone who has studied ‘systems and systems thinking’ will get that control is an illusion.  Yet as Kahneman has shown in his latest book (Thinking Fast and Slow) we human beings are wired to strive for control, think we can control more than we can control, and look for/find order when none exists.  Don and Martha share these features of our existence and spell out some approaches that Tops can take to deal with the new reality.

“Build your trustability in advance”.  In this chapter Don and Martha spell out the advantage of being a trustable company through examples of real companies that encountered hard times and where reputation for trustability (with core customer base) made all the difference.  In short, if you look after your customers in the good times they look after you during your bad times.

“Honest competence”.  It is not enough to be honest, it is not enough to be competent, your organisation has to show up as being honest and competent.   Don and Martha divide competence into product competence and customer competence  and explore each one.  Turns out that organisations really struggle with customer competence.  The key issue – inability/failure to empathise with customers, to see the world through their eyes.  Don and Martha share the instructive story around Domino’s pizza.

“Trustable information”.  Information is data that makes a difference – it sheds light on a situation, it enables action, it helps attain desired outcomes. One way companies can contribute to customers and the wider community and thus build trustability is through sharing data and/or information that is held by the company.   What is often just data within a company, if released to a wide community in a usable format can be turned into information.  That is the key point of this chapter, Don and Martha gives some examples.

“Designing trustability into a business”.  This chapter completes the conversation, the story and Don/Martha do so by exploring what trustability would involve in various industries – mobile operators, financial services, automotive, airlines, enterprise computing…..

Why I have gone to all this effort to write this review?

Extreme Trust deserves to be read.  It opens up a new domain, a new conversation, a conversation that needs to happen.  Why?  Until this conversation happens, this domain is addressed, pretty much all the money spent on Customer initiatives is wasted.  Why?  Because the ‘elephant in the room’ is not being addressed and addressing that ‘elephant in the room’ is the key to cultivating genuine affection and customer loyalty.   I want to leave you with the parting words of Don and Martha in Extreme Trust:

“In the final analysis, it is almost certain to be the new companies and the start-ups that employ these tactics to overturn the old way.  They have less invested in the current paradigm, and less to lose by destroying it.  Gradually, they will use trustability to transform our entire economic system, in the same way that interactivity itself has so dramatically transformed our lives already.  They will deploy honesty as brutally efficient competitive weapon against the old guard. 

As standards for trustability continue to rise, the companies, the brands, and organisations shown to lack trustability will be punished more and more severely…..

For my part, I am keen for this future to turn up sooner rather than later – the thought occurs to me that this is a future worth operating from and living into.  How about you?

Posted on May 28, 2012, in Customer Philosophy, Marketing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Personally I am looking forward to this shift, I think that it is long overdue.

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  2. Hi Maz,
    Having just finished editing the interview I did a few days ago with Don and Martha I am just about to post it on my own blog. I couldn’t agree with you more. This conversation is long overdue and I, like you, am looking forward to the transformation and the world it creates.

    Adrian

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  3. Hello Adrian
    I look forward to reading it. Do you know that Don is over, in the UK, in June?

    Maz

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  4. “Out of nowhere trust has become the most talked about abstractions of our times”. Trust is the killer app. http://winningbysharing.typepad.com/oaxaca/2009/03/trust-is-the-killer-app.html

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    • Hello Leon
      Thanks for taking the time to drop by and share the link. I enjoyed reading it. Trust matters because it is the oil the lubricates our world. When there is no trust then there is gridlock in all domains of life that work on trust. Isn’t that what the credit crunch was about: one bank did not trust another.

      Maz

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