Do you trust your hair always to the same hairdresser? How many years you have had your current bank account? Or insurance package? Do you buy your groceries online or from the nearest corner shop? How many times you have asked for new tenders from aircon maintenance companies, telcom operators etc.? Take a minute, how many service/ product providers and business partners are your trusted ones, year after year?
I realized to have quite many trusted service providers, partners, when I moved from Finland to Singapore nearly three years ago. I had had the same hairdresser almost 20 years, the same dentist since mid-90’s, the same masseuse at least 18 years, also the same physiotherapist from 90’s… I had negotiated my mortgage a couple times between years 2001-2013 and changed the bank last time 2008 (still the same). When working on B2B I had excellent help from the department store to buy easily my suits and business clothes, otherwise I mainly bought my clothes online (mail order).
We were (I and my spouse) in Finland eight days in the beginning of this summer. I devoted almost the whole day just to visit my dentist. A horrific surprise to be informed my dear dentist had retired!! Ohmy. The new dentist seemed to be nice fellow, and I thought okay, I’m here, let’s give a try. I shouldn’t, truly. Long story short, but I have faced too many problems with my teeth since my teen-years. When I was 17 years old, I faced malpractice: the dentist conducted root canal treatment for two teeth, even though nothing infected, teeth were intact. This malpractice has followed me years, and during my university years I finally met the “proper” dentist, who diagnosed my real problem (night-time bite). Since then he has been, well was my dentist. Back to the new dentist’s chair. He checked my dental equipment, some x-rays etc. Standard procedure. The result, the one of those maltreated teeth was infected, the root of the problem lying somewhere back in my teens. Treatment: to remove the tooth. I was terrified, of course. But said yes, okay. I am not going to face another root canal treatment for already dead tooth, so let’s take it off. Easier decided than done. I sat in the chair mouth open over two hours, the result some of the pieces of tooth still inside my gum. And I was directed to the specialist, dental surgeon. Bleeding, hurting, numb, annoyed. Next morning a new drive from our cottage to the town, again new specialist to meet. He got the pieces out in five minutes, my problem hopefully eternally vanished.
But next time having holiday in Finland I will not book an appointment with the dentist, who replaced my dear, but retired one… Any lessons learned? Is it good to have years, decades even, the same, trusted person to treat you, to have business with, to buy services from? Sure, I say yes. I just need to find after 20 years or so new service providers for teeth, muscles, hair, to fill my wardrobe .., because it is just impossible to manage all these from Singapore, and more over just too expensive to fly to Finland to have massage or haircut.
To the businesses it is not nice to know, how volatile we consumers are, but as a sole proprietor I also think that, whenever I truly can build the bridge of trust, consistence, the bond with my customers, they probably could become loyal as myself I am to my service providers. It is only a very thin sample, and not at all objective, but somehow I assume to be quite a standard consumer, when regarding big picture of common life issues: banking, health care, electricity, groceries, shoes.
So what features make someone, something to be trusted?
For me, the most obvious is the trust. It means listening, understanding, engaging, saying no sometimes, being consistent time after time. For instance anything to do with my physical body and especially, if there is need to touch me, it really takes time before that bridge is built. (I acknowledged that being middle-aged Finnish I am different from the most of the globe’s population.) So it is huge, when you can find the trusted person, who provides exactly what you need, what you want, and even has subtle way offer you more. I found an excellent masseuse years ago, happily also the physiotherapist, who could read my muscles plus listened to my own opinions (and understood the creative exercises/ treatments I conducted). Banking is of course based on mutual trust, and not too pushy offerings – my bank knows all my financial information from salary to my depths; information you rarely share with your friends, family, spouse.
Here in Singapore I needed to push the envelope. I have found good hairdresser near to my home. We share only a few common words, but after a few of times he started to trust me, and even more to trust himself to take care of very odd hair type, we have managed well indeed. I was also lucky to find excellent GP (she knows me, and my spouse, so we have a family doc), I have the trusted neurologist too to help me to manage my muscle conditions. And after one mistake, we found suitable banking services. We have changed our grocery shopping habits: mainly online (three different e-stores), but we also do shopping on several physical stores (here are plenty of them!). And positively something very different from our Finland life: we visit nowadays a couple of corner restaurants, where the staff know us and greet us friendly, with smile and take a moment to chat with us. Brilliant, never knew, how extremely important it can be.
In our supposedly very digital world I bet that many of us still prefer human contact, specifically the same human bond year after decade.