Georges and Guenzi's Customer Trust Model

Increasing Customer Loyalty With Trust

Georges and Guenzi's Customer Trust Model - Increasing Customer Loyalty With Trust

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Do you know what it takes to build trusting relationships with your customers?

We can do this through specific actions and behaviors. When we know which of these are most effective, we set the stage for a rewarding, long-term association. So, which behaviors should we focus on, and which must we avoid?

About the Customer Trust Model

Professors Laurent Georges and Paolo Guenzi created the Customer Trust Model and published it in their 2008 paper, "Interpersonal Trust in Commercial Relationships: Antecedents and Consequences of Customer Trust in the Salesperson."

The model highlights four factors that are key for building trust with customers. They are:

  • Customer orientation.
  • Expertise.
  • Likability.
  • [Avoiding] selling orientation.

From "Interpersonal Trust in Commercial Relationships: Antecedents and Consequences of Customer Trust in the Salesperson" by Laurent Georges and Paolo Guenzi, May 2008.

Customer orientation, expertise and likability are positive factors – they significantly contribute to strong, long-term relationships with customers. However, selling orientation is a negative factor and it has a harmful effect on trust.

Georges and Guenzi developed the model after studying how salespeople and public-facing employees increased customer loyalty in the financial services industry. Their research confirmed that the more trust we build with customers, the more likely they are to buy from us again and recommend our products and services.

Although the model is aimed at sales professionals and public-facing staff, you can also use it with your "internal customers" – such as your boss and people from other departments – to sell your ideas, and to increase your influence and visibility within your organization.

Applying the Model

Let's look at the four factors in greater detail, and examine how you can use them to build trust with your customers and clients.

Customer Orientation

Customer orientation is how focused you are on what your customers want. In their research, Georges and Guenzi found that salespeople with this orientation are 86 percent more likely to build trust with their customers.

When you have a strong customer orientation, you have a genuine desire to help your clients make the right decisions. You assess your customers' needs realistically, describe products and services honestly, and avoid manipulative or high-pressure selling tactics.

To strengthen your customer orientation, use the consultative selling approach to identify and meet your customers' requirements, and avoid the "hard sell."

Ask effective questions and listen well, so that you discover what your customers truly want. How can your product or service solve their problems and meet their needs?

Use empathy to see things from their perspectives, and aim for a "win-win" result during negotiations, so that you protect your relationships.


Expertise relates to your level of knowledge, technical competence and ability. Georges and Guenzi found that customers were 82 percent more likely to trust salespeople when they perceived them as experts.

When you demonstrate a high level of expertise, you make it easier for customers to trust that you're recommending a product or service that meets their needs. You're also more credible, and able to answer their questions and queries with confidence and clarity.

To build expertise, devote time to learning everything you can about your products and those of your competitors. Then look at how you can develop a reputation as an expert. For instance, you could write a blog; speak at relevant events; get featured in newspapers, magazines and journals; or provide useful resources for your customers.

Also, stay up to date with your industry. This might mean connecting with thought leaders through Twitter® and LinkedIn™, and attending events that allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your industry, and your role in it.


Likability is the impression you make with others on a personal level. Georges and Guenzi found that being liked is useful in the early stages of a customer relationship. However, it won't significantly influence a long-term relationship unless the other positive factors are in place.

Finding This Article Useful?

You can learn another 146 communication skills, like this, by joining the Mind Tools Club.

Join the Mind Tools Club Today!

First, learn how to make a great first impression. Look people in the eye, shake hands firmly, dress professionally, and be authentic. Listen intently to what they have to say, show an interest in their wants and needs, and always be courteous, even when they aren't.

You can also be more likable by disclosing personal information about yourself, by having a positive outlook, and by developing your emotional intelligence, so that you are aware of your own emotions as well as the feelings of those around you.

Focus on making people feel good, too – give sincere praise, show gratitude, and share your knowledge and expertise when others need help.

[Avoiding] Selling Orientation

Selling orientation is a negative factor, which is the opposite of customer orientation. Georges and Guenzi found that salespeople who have a selling orientation are 88 percent less likely to develop a trusting relationship with their customers.

People with this orientation are more interested in "making a sale" than meeting the wants and needs of their customers. They might describe products and services inaccurately, and use manipulative or pressure tactics to get what they want.

Avoid these behaviors and, instead, focus on being customer oriented.


Our article on Yukl and Tracey's Influencers highlights five negative behaviors that you should avoid when you want to influence and persuade others. These are "legitimation," "coalition," "pressure," "ingratiation," and "personal appeals."

Key Points

Professors Laurent Georges and Paolo Guenzi published the Customer Trust Model in their 2008 paper, "Interpersonal Trust in Commercial Relationships: Antecedents and Consequences of Customer Trust in the Salesperson." The model outlines four factors that are important for building trust with customers. They are:

  • Customer orientation.
  • Expertise.
  • Likability.
  • Selling orientation.

You can strengthen loyalty and trust by developing customer orientation and expertise, and by being likable.

Avoid adopting a selling orientation, though, as this can damage customer relationships and destroy trust.

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Comments (4)
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    Hi smaul,
    Welcome to the Club and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Good point about the legitimate need for seeing a sales person in the first instance!

    Why not come over to the Forums and introduce yourself. We would love to meet you. If you have any questions, just let us know.

    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago smaul wrote
    This is a layering on of work done by Maister and others. It's a bit of folly to think that sales people will "avoid selling". After all, it's not as though the customer doesn't understand the responsibility the sales rep has. The key in trust is the orientation towards what the customer considers most important and the issues/challenges they face. This model also seems to presume that "selling" is a negative, which it is not. People who have a legitimate need welcome a professional sales person doing their job well, which includes items 1-3 of this model and all of those contained in Maister, which precedes the work done by these academics.
  • Over a month ago Yolande wrote
    Hi lisa_gy

    It's good to hear that you found the article helpful - thanks for the feedback.

    Welcome to the Club as well - it's great to see you around. We'd love you to join us on the forums. That is where we share ideas, get input on challenges and get to know the members. We recently had a discussion about trust in the workplace - this link will take you there: . Please feel free to add a comment or ask a question. You're also welcome to start your own topic over here: (click on the "Post New Topic" button.)

    Hope to see you there soon!

    Mind Tools Team
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