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Using Honesty to Build Trust

Lori Halley 13 September 2013 2 comments

Recently, I read a post on the EDM Blog offering advice on trust and honesty in technology partnerships. In his post - Do You Trust Your AMS Vendor?Wes Trochlil suggests that organizations should build partnerships with their software providers, much the same way he has built a long-term relationship with a trusted home renovator. Trochlil notes: 

When it comes to choosing new software for your association, keep in mind that you’re not just buying software; you’re also buying a relationship with the vendor who will support that software. As I often tell my clients, you’re not buying a car, you’re getting married. And you want this marriage to last.

When you need to grow your system by adding features and functionality, you want to have a relationship with your vendor that is similar to the relationship I have with my builder. It should be built on trust, mutual benefit, and a vision for working together in the long-term.

Too often I see associations that have developed an adversarial relationship with their software vendor. They view the vendor as just another company out to separate the association from their money. There is a fundamental lack of trust.

Exactly how can you build a trusting relationship?

This is great advice, since we understand the critical role that membership and website management software or systems play in the success of any association or non-profit. But you may be asking: how can we build a trusting relationship with a software provider?

Well recently, I learned first-hand the role that honesty can play in building trust. And I believe this lesson can be applied to associations and non-profits that are looking for ways to retain and engage their supporters or members.

For his August edition of Software News, our Chief Apricot, Dmitry Buterin, offered an extremely frank overview of “Wishlists and other black holes” including insight into the “Version 5.0 sinkhole”. He offered an honest, personal overview of the challenges we’ve faced in realizing our goal for Version 5.0’s new CMS. But he also explained the “silver lining” benefit of applying what we’ve learned in the process to improve future processes and enhance Wild Apricot’s product offering.

What was the result of Dmitry's extreme candor?  The most comments we’ve ever received on a blog post – and all of them were positive and appreciative. Here are a few excerpts from the comments we received

  • “The tendency for end users is to complain about what's wrong and not appreciate what's right. ... Your system and the affordable price allows us to have a very robust website and member management process - all without glitches and downtime. It's the backbone of our success and community outreach. Thank you for being frank with us - it helps a lot.
  • “Dmitri, it took guts to come out and say all that you have said here. Kudos...Welcome to the IT world... No-one ever knows what it is really going to take to do something ... because you never know when a technology is going to let you down. ...Wild Apricot is THE most reliable hosted content management system I have ever experienced. You do not release stuff in beta, you wait until it is well tested. I never have to worry about when a new release is happening and plan to test my sites - you have no idea how big a relief that is for me.”
  • “This sort of frank introspection and explanation is great. It helps customers understand where you are coming from; and the challenges involved. But give yourself credit where credit is due. Wild Apricot is a fantastic product. ...”
  • “I agree with all of the above. And most importantly to me, I appreciate your openness and honesty as a leader communicating with us. It's refreshing.”

Give honesty a try - it can be refreshing

The lesson I learned was that Dmitry's honesty was “refreshing” and reminded our clients that there are human beings leading the organization and working diligently behind the scenes to help their organizations build, connect and grow their memberships. Outlining our challenges in an honest, personal way also helped "customers understand where [we] are coming from". It lays the groundwork for building trust.

With associations trying to retain members and encourage participation, and with non-profits hoping to build long-term relationships with their donors, honesty may truly be the best policy.  After all, research confirms that members join associations or clubs to network and learn. That means these folks are looking to connect on a personal level – with both their fellow members and those managing the organization.  It IS personal for them, just as it is for donors - who expect honesty from the non-profits to which they entrust their donations.

Are you brave enough to try honesty?

But let’s be clear – honesty can be tough.  When you lay it out there, you can literally be opening yourself or your organization up to negative feedback too. However, if you want to build trust with your supporters or members, you really need to start with honesty.

What do you think?  Has your organization got an “honesty story” to share?  Please let us know in the comments below.
Image source:  Expression: Honesty is the best policy - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 13 September 2013 at 8:30 AM


  • Wes Trochlil said:

    Friday, 13 September 2013 at 9:47 AM
    Great post, Lori. Trust is at the core of every successful relationship, whether business or personal.

    -Wes Trochlil
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Friday, 13 September 2013 at 9:50 AM
    Thanks Wes - well said.
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