Being a Trusted Advisor

I’ve spent close to a decade working with Customers and this blog post aims to summarize my most valuable learnings from working closely with Customers in the hopes that it will help others with their Customer Relationship Management!

My entire customer experience can be summed up as - “Working with the top tier Customers who need strategic, tactical and technical guidance on utilizing VMware Products effectively and achieving their Business Objectives!”. Over the years I’d worked with around 20 of the Fortune 500 Companies and I ensured that I left a lasting impression by providing great Customer Service. I empathized with my Customers and viewed theirs problems as if they were my own. I would then move mountains and earth to get them where they needed to be! With every one of my Customer, I had a thought process on how to gain their trust and I managed to deliver the results they needed by being their trusted advisor. Let’s explore what that means…

Who is a trusted advisor?

There are many roles that explicitly contain the word “trusted advisor” in their Job Description but here are my thoughts on the top few where I consider trust is crucial

NOTE: Trust is crucial in any role and here I’m summarizing the part Trust plays when working with a Customer.

Function Description Technical Knowledge Relationship Trust
Professional Services (TAM, Consultant) Customer paid resource who helps with hands-on services including Installing, Configuring or Managing aspects of a Technical Solution High Short Term (mostly) Trusted Implicitly; Mistakes are costly and erodes trust
Support (Support Engineer) The go to set of resources that help when a Technology Solution is broken High Medium Term (mostly) Trusted Implicitly; Mistakes are costly and erodes trust
Customer Success (Support Managers) Resources that help the Customer maximize their return on Investment with a particular Vendor Medium (excluding Engineers) Long Term (mostly) Considered Neutral and it’s safe to build trust over time
Sales (Sales Representatives) Resources that help the Customer map Business problems to Outcomes which can be achieved through the Company they represent Low (excluding Engineers) Long Term (definitely) Often starts on the back foot and needs to slowly build trust to make any Impact

What is trust?

Trust as defined by the The Trust Equation

$$Trust = \frac{Credibility + Reliability + Empathy}{Self Orientation}$$

Credibility

has to do with the words we speak. In a sentence we might say, “I can trust what she says about intellectual property; she’s very credible on the subject.”

Reliability

has to do with actions. We might say, “If he says he’ll deliver the product tomorrow, I trust him, because he’s dependable.”

Intimacy

refers to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something. We might say, “I can trust her with that information; she’s never violated my confidentiality before, and she would never embarrass me.”

Self-orientation

refers to the person’s focus. In particular, whether the person’s focus is primarily on him or herself, or on the other person. We might say, “I can’t trust him on this deal — I don’t think he cares enough about me, he’s focused on what he gets out of it.” Or more commonly, “I don’t trust him — I think he’s too concerned about how he’s appearing, so he’s not really paying attention.”

My Thoughts

In addition to the reference above, my understanding of Trust through the many years of working closely with Customers as their trusted advisor and something I’ve practiced can be expressed as

$$Trust = (Honesty + Empathy) * Consistency$$

Simply put, to earn trust in any capacity (Professional and Personal) you have to be honest and empathetic. The more consistent you are, the more Trust you tend to build.

/img/misc/time-cx/csat.jpg
Everything Wrong

A Trusted Advisor provides an unbiased and honest viewpoint about any given situation and ensure everyone involved has clarity. A Trusted Advisor aims to balance Company direction and Customer needs. When a Customer needs something, they evaluate the ask and after completing the necessary due diligence on all possible options, they ensure they are taking all the steps to help obtain the needed results. A Trusted Advisor always evaluate every possible options with the Customer ensuring transparency and builds credibility.

PRO TIP: use data to build credibility as needed

With these thoughts and references, I hope I’ve given you some insight that you can put into building, earning and retaining Trust with your Customers.

Contents