Taming A Wild Cat (Building Customer Trust Part II)

High Anxiety

With a confusing array of choices, change happening at an alarming rate, information overload, and being pressed for time;  all fueling the anxiety and distrust level of the average customer, how do you build trust in a wary world?

With the cards stacked against you from the start, what chance to you have to win a customer’s trust?

Taming The Wild Cat

My son Daniel is a missionary to cats.  He loves them and has always had one around.  He discovered a very wild and stray cat living in the storage shed next to his house. At first if one just looked at that cat it would bolt. You really couldn’t see it, just the gray streak and a dust cloud as it vanished from sight.

Over time, Daniel was able to win that wild cat’s confidence and eventually domesticated her.  He named her Kitty. She’s beautiful. She’s become an indoor cat for the most part exception for the occasional night outdoors to satisfy her craving for fresh vermin.

Care, Caution, and Consistency

How did he win her over? Simple.

He cared about the cat.

He thought about her needs and what she would want: (safety, food, a warm place to sleep, humans to own and dominate.)

He was cautious.

He didn’t overwhelm the cat or rush her to get used to humans.  He moved slowly, and gradually moved closer to her without spooking her.  He always held his hands where she could see them and be sure they weren’t a threat.  He spoke softly and his motions were smooth and non-threatening.

Finally, he was consistent.

He did the same thing every day, without changing the routine. The way he approached her varied little, what he said varied even less.  His actions were consistent.

While this might seem simplistic, it is no more so than putting the big rocks in your jar first, or that men and women are from different planets. Taming a wild kitty is the perfect metaphor for building customer trust and taking care of them.

What does Care look like?

If we apply the parable of the taming of Kitty to building customer trust, what would it look like to care for our customers?  First of all, it must be real care and not just faked caring.  People, like cats, see through that pretty fast. Caring means being focused on their needs, their fears, and their preoccupations: the things that make them wary.

How do you find out that stuff? Just listen! The first step of building customer trust is by caring. The first step of caring is listening to their needs. Anyone can listen. But the kind of listening that says “I care” is a deep, intentional, focused listening. It doesn’t require a license or a degree, just a willingness to focus on, and care about the well-being of the other person.

What does Caution look like?

Caution means not getting too close too soon. It means not stepping over a boundary that needs to be there.  It means knowing what might trigger wariness in your customer and being careful not to make any fast or threatening moves that would spook them. I avoid certain types of purchases just because I don’t want to run the gauntlet of over-friendly sales staff that want to get too chummy as soon as I walk through the door.

What does Consistency look like?

Once you are clear on the person’s needs and make a promise to deliver something, be sure to fulfill that commitment on time, every time. Follow the lead of Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks. He says in his book Pour Your Heart Into It: “Every step of the way, I made a point to under promise and over deliver. In the long run, that’s the only way to ensure security in any job.” Consistency is just doing the same good thing over and over.

Choices, change, information, and time constraints are beyond our control.

We can, however, reduce their impact by consistently exercising care to soothe the wariness in others that is a part of our world. The mind is designed to hone in on threats.  Once a threat is experienced, the brain takes a picture of all the stuff connected with that threat, so that the next time any of those same elements are present the mind goes into a state of high alert. The same thing happens even in the absence of the threat. You’re not the threat, but something that you do or say might trigger the threat. By using care, caution, and constancy you’re retraining someone’s mind not to be wary around you.  You’re teaching their neurons you can be trusted.

Trust =

You can be in a  vulnerable position because I will behave in a positive way. Yes you could get hurt in a situation like this, and you don’t have any control over whether or not I will do the right thing, yet you can trust me.


About Tim

I am a corporate speaker and author of “Powerful Listening. Powerful Influence.” I help people unleash their untapped potential to succeed at leadership, communication, professional development by helping them understand how to get along and share their toys in the workplace. Learn more about me at encorelifeskills.com

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