The open kitchen and the importance of trust
Trust is hard to quantify financially.
I always try to build an ROI (Return on Investment) into any recommendation I bring to customers. Often, I need to remind them of the importance of trust in any business model. When I try to translate business factors in a mathematical equation, I always choose to include trust as a multiplying factor. It is simple, whatever you do for your customer adds up to your total value as a partner, supplier, vendor, etc. This amount multiplied by your trust equals your relevance. If the trust they have in you is zero, this is also your relevance score.
We could express it like this: Relevance = (importance + flexibility) * trust
I acknowledge there are some examples when organisations managed to rescue themselves from awkward, or even embarrassing situations and they continue to be in business. But for most of us, if the answer customers give to how much they trust you is nil, it is simply game over.
Data, algorithms, blockchain, robotics, innovation, agility, customer centricity and other technologies and concepts are all fighting to become the next big thing in the world of business, the new oil, as they say. I would argue trust is the glue to your customer and the oil of your model.
The more complex and uncertain an environment is, the bigger the importance of trust. When things get tough, we rely on others to move forward. When conditions change, we build a plane in the air, and to do so we lean on people we trust. Some people say trust grows slowly and dies suddenly like the broken mirror that cannot be fixed. It is certainly hard to build up and easy to lose.
Trust is not the answer to every question. We all know people and organisations we can trust and could not help us with the challenge ahead. We also need our model to help customers be important and flexible. But ultimately, trust is a deciding factor.
Is there an ROI for trust? Does it need to be an ROI to invest in things that make us trustworthy? I had a conversation about this with a customer over dinner in a restaurant with an open kitchen. We both agreed we loved the perception of transparency that comes from a tidy, well-run kitchen. It is not just fashionable, it adds up to the dining experience.
So my question to him was (and still is): if you had a restaurant with a closed kitchen, would you open it up? Would you change the restaurant layout, or if you could simplify it, would you knock down the wall separating the kitchen and the dining room?
Before you answer, let me give you the facts. There is a cost involved in the renovation work, and it will most likely force you to close down for a few days with the financial impact of not having customers during this time and the risk of losing those customers to another restaurant. Besides, if your kitchen staff is not used to working in front of people, they may react negatively, or boycott the idea, not to mention the risk of showing something to your customers you do not want them to see.
Finally, there is no guarantee new customers will come to your restaurant specifically for that reason, and it is unclear if it would have an impact on repeating business.
What do you think your CFO would say? What do you think most business owners would do in such a situation? If you were trying to make it happen, how would you present it to them?
Many restaurant owners would simply change the painting on the wall, or would paint the wall, or would leave it as it is. Why? Because we cannot present a conclusive ROI to support the idea. Sometimes we need to incorporate other factors like the return on customer experience (ROX), or the impact on trust.
I will not disclose how the conversation ended and, in reality, the nature of his business is different. But I did manage to keep him thinking about the importance of reviewing everything that affects transparency, the customer experience and trust. We all have many situations similar to the decision of whether or not to open the kitchen in the restaurant. All of them present great opportunities. What is yours?