A conversation with a neighbour this morning raised the fact that, as few of us service our own vehicles these days and have no idea how a car functions, we are totally reliant on manufacturers, main dealers and garages for the safety and maintenance of our vehicles.
We place total trust in them.
Our lives are in their hands.
What happens when that trust is broken?
We feel betrayed.
How can we ever trust Volkswagen again? And what about other motor manufacturers? Or manufacturers of other equipment? Or service providers such as the NHS?
We are so used to experiencing the ‘brand’ reinforcing the quality, reliability, service and other characteristics of these organisations, but how much of it can we believe?
Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn has apologised and said he is “utterly sorry”, but what message does the Volkswagen AG corporate statement give us when it says:
“Earnings targets for the Group for 2015 will be adjusted accordingly. Volkswagen does not tolerate any kind of violation of laws whatsoever. It is and remains the top priority of the Board of Management to win back lost trust and to avert damage to our customers.”
Does Volkswagen consider earnings before obeying the law? And does it place both before trust and damage to customers?
A brand embodies the qualities that a business imagines it exhibits, but the real ‘character’ of an organisation is established by the traits revealed by its everyday operations. How often do these match?
Perhaps businesses and organisations – especially large ones, but including smaller ones too – need to assess any gap between the brand they create to build their reputation and the reality of the products and services they actually provide.
Any gaps they find they need to close.
We need to trust.
It’s essential both for business and for us.
• Robert Zarywacz is co-founder of pleaseandthanks.co.uk and vice-chairman of the National Campaign for Courtesy | A copywriter, journalist, PR and partner at Zarywacz and pressme.co.uk | Follow on Google+ Twitter and LinkedIn