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Global View: Maintaining a Trust-Focused Relationship in Turkey

April 27, 2012

Global View: Maintaining a Trust-Focused Relationship in Turkey

Relationships revolve around trust. The need to surround ourselves with people we consider trustworthy is ingrained in human nature. Whether it's determining who to share confidential information with or which email in our inbox we should open, trust is often at the back of our minds.

It is therefore not surprising that trust plays such an essential role in company-customer relationships: Unless they appear to be trustworthy, organizations will struggle to attract customers and, more important, retain their business and turn them into loyal advocates of the brand.

At its core, trust revolves around an alignment between what you say and what you do. We expect people--and organizations--to deliver on their promises. Trust can quickly be lost if the other party doesn't keep his word, whether they've struck a gentlemen's agreement or signed a written contract.

Additionally, the two sides of an agreement need to be closely aligned. Customers don't want to agree to specific terms only to find different ones when they're presented with a written contract. In Turkey, for example, customers still rely heavily on verbal communications. Therefore, if there is a miscommunication by the salesperson, or he neglects to mention some of the conditions, he will negatively impact the customer's experience. Once that happens, even if there's a justified explanation, the customer may not be satisfied.

Turkish people place a great deal of importance on trust, which is a very old and powerful concept in the country. In fact, in Turkish culture, being trustworthy is far more appreciated and promoted than being smart, successful, or entrepreneurial.

Both Turkish people and businesses have evolved from very personal demonstrations of trust to more formal evidences of trust. As recently as 15 to 20 years ago, when banking was still not widely available to everyone, people used promissory notes and handwritten letters for lending purposes. This practice wouldn't be possible unless both parties trusted each other to do the right thing.

In Turkey's trust-based business relationships, verbal communications counted as much as written agreements. Although they weren't legally sanctioned, everybody adopted these non-written codes. As Turkey and Turkish businesses became more integrated within the Western world, both people and businesses started to seek formal demonstrations of trust, which can lead to legal documents like contract.

Moreover, once a trusted relationship has been established, Turkish people will not be easily swayed by negative comments. It is personal experiences that matter a great deal in Turkey, rather than horror stories of other customers' experiences with organizations.

But at the same time, national values can sometimes trigger loss of trust among Turkish customers, even if their personal experiences were positive ones. For example, between 2005 and 2007 a number of Turkish banks were partially or wholly acquired by global players. This caused an exodus, with many customers leaving their banks and transferring their money and investments to 100 percent Turkish-owned banks. The reason behind this was the feelings of patriotism; that is, trust in all things Turkish over trust in companies or brands from elsewhere.

Despite these cultural nuances, trust in Turkey is not much different than elsewhere in the world. Most of the time, loss of trust is directly linked to a personal experience. Small gestures, like a quick response or a callback, are highly valued in Turkey, where customers tend to appreciate these efforts to the point where they stave off potentially lost trust from a negative experience or an issue or concern. Turkish customers especially value personal interactions with organizations; so, it's the businesses that work to build customer trust--by such actions as taking the time to treat customers as individuals and proactively resolving potential problems--that will gain a competitive advantage.

simge_small.jpgAbout the Author: Simge Alpargun is a director at Peppers & Rogers Group's FSI practice. Contact her at

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