Trut and the Bottom Line

By William J. Lynott
[Business Side]

Have you ever thought about why you choose to do business with some companies and not others?

You may not have thought much about it, but I suspect you’d have no trouble coming up with your own answers to that question. If you’re like most of the people interviewed for this article, your reasons would include such obvious things as advertising that caught your eye, an image that suggests quality and reasonable price, convenient location, stocking the brands or types of items you prefer, friendly employees, and so on.

However, when it comes to intimate services such as personal care and healthcare, my informal poll highlighted another important reason people choose one provider over another. It is a subtle, less frequently discussed reason: when we are in the market for a highly personal service we tend to seek out people we trust.

Because of the intimate nature of healthcare services, the element of trust tends to play a bigger role in our selection of the providers of those services than it might in other types of transactions. So how does a massage and bodywork practitioner go about building an image of trustworthiness?

As a first step, you may want to remind yourself that the elements required to build trust between a buyer and seller are precisely the same as those that are necessary for building trust between any two individuals. Unless you’ve mastered the basics of developing trust in personal relationships, you’ll have a difficult time gaining trust in the professional services that you provide. Consider the characteristics that are present in the people you trust.


At best, this may sound like a vague, subjective term. Still, psychologists agree that likeability is a critical characteristic in developing trust. Over the centuries, human nature has evolved in a way that makes it almost impossible for us to trust someone we don’t like.

It makes sense; if you want people to trust you and your practice, you must learn to help people to like you. Among the more important ways to do that is developing the habit of making good eye contact when you’re talking with another person. Do you know someone who avoids looking you in the eye during conversations? If you do, I’ll bet you don’t trust that person.

As you move through these following traits, you’ll see how other characteristics can help you in this area, too.


In some ways, the terms believability and trustworthiness are synonymous. If you have difficulty believing a person, you aren’t likely to trust that person. Believability, like trust itself, must be earned, and there’s only one way to do that. 

In any service business, believability translates into one simple dictum: never promise something you can’t deliver. Once you make a promise, it is essential you keep that promise. Of course, you say. A promise is a promise.

The trouble is that too many service providers don’t seem to realize that such simple statements as, “I’ll call you on Tuesday,” or “That item is on order. I’ll let you know when it comes in,” are promises. Any time you fail to deliver on these or any other promises, your believability and your practice will suffer serious damage.

Once you learn that circumstances have made it impossible to keep a promise, it is essential that you contact your client immediately. A broken promise is a serious problem; a promise broken at the last minute is a business killer. A promise made good is a business essential.

Willingness to Listen

Let’s be honest about this. Very few of us are good listeners by nature. Most people want to do much more talking than listening. Although we may not be conscious of the reason, most of us feel comfortable in the company of that rare person who is a good listener.

Have you ever found yourself thinking more about what you want to say next than what the person who is speaking to you is saying? If you have that tendency, you are almost certainly not a good listener.

Learning to listen well is not an easy task. It takes a great deal of self-discipline, but from a business standpoint it’s well worth the effort. We tend to trust people who are willing to take the time to listen to what we have to say. And we tend to trust people who seem to make a genuine effort to understand what we are saying.

Allow clients time to fully express their thoughts about what they need from each session. Even if you plan to offer alternative suggestions, show respect to the client by listening to her thoughts about what she feels needs to be done.



In the course of our daily activities, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of superficial contacts with friends, family, and clients. If you listen carefully, you’ll be able to hear actual examples, like this exchange I once overheard between a business owner and an employee passing in a hallway: 

Employee: “Good morning, Mr. Smith. Looks like we’re going to have a nice day.” 

Boss: “Fine, thank you. And how are you?”

One of the most effective ways to develop and demonstrate sincere interest in your clients is to take the time to find out something about each one, and then follow through from time to time with questions that show you care.



I don’t know about you, but I’m not comfortable with people who never seem to display any sort of emotion. A flat, guarded personality is difficult to read and difficult to trust. Since you’re never quite sure of that person’s reaction to what you say and do, it becomes almost impossible to build a trusting relationship.

On the other hand, people who aren’t afraid to display genuine enthusiasm over things that excite them generate an open image that suggests honesty and interest. One of the easiest ways to demonstrate enthusiasm is to smile. Smiling is easy to do and it’s a proven way to smooth the path to trust in any relationship.



On both a business and personal level, few characteristics are as capable of building a level of trust as effectively as a reputation for following up. If you say you’ll get information for someone, get it. No matter what, get it. If you say you’ll look into a problem, do it. Any successful person can tell you that a reputation for poor follow-up will be a serious, perhaps deadly, impediment in a career.

This follow-up extends to counseling clients about the benefits of continuing bodywork. Give them a chance to rebook immediately after a session. If they don’t, make courtesy calls to check in on them and offer additional appointment times.

And, it is worth repeating: don’t overlook the critical importance of following up on promises. Always remember: a broken promise is an almost certain path to client alienation.

A Solid Reputation

You get the idea. Thousands of additional words could be written on the subject of building trust, but most of the basic elements are contained in these few paragraphs.

It’s no secret: building a reputation for trustworthiness is a tough, never-ending job. Nevertheless, it’s a critical element in professional success.

While it can be difficult to win it, trust is surprisingly easy to lose. Every time you stray from the basic principles outlined here, you chip away at the trust others have in you and in your practice.

  William J. Lynott is a former management consultant and corporate executive who writes on business and financial topics for a number
of consumer and trade publications. His latest book, Money: How to Make the Most of What You’ve Got, is available through bookstores. You can reach Lynott at or