As consumers of products and services, we seek to add something to our lives that will make them easier and/or more enjoyable. When companies guarantee to fulfill a need or desire, we expect them to live up to their promises.

As employees and employers, our goals are to build relationships and deepen trust with customers, and work toward a shared objective.

Disappointment and disillusion set in when expectations are not met and also when they are pushed aside when people claim they are someone else’s responsibility.

Have you ever been told any of these statements? “That’s X company’s responsibility.” “That’s X’s job, not mine.” “You need to call X because it’s out of our hands.” If so, you likely felt that your value was undermined and also frustrated because the service you paid for or an employee on your team was making your life or your job more difficult.

It becomes an endless cycle of passing the ball.

Effects of passing off responsibility

As an employer, when you pass off the issue to someone else or refuse to accept any responsibility, you create a division between your company and the consumer and among your team. The consumer will look elsewhere to buy from a more agreeable company and your team members will seek employment elsewhere from employers that show them more respect.

Either way, the taste in everyone’s mouth is poor.

If you lead a company that touts accepting ownership but then ignore that promise when faced with a challenge, whatever trust you have built with your customers and employees is quickly shaken.

Examining responsibility and how to fulfill it will go a long way in building relationships within and outside of your organization, retaining customers and employees, and creating trust.

Should you take on the responsibility?

Accepting responsibility is not to say you should accept all responsibility for everything and do everyone else’s job they were hired to do. If you did that, you would never complete your own work. You might even cause others to slack because they know they can pass jobs on to you. Or as customers, we sometimes need to do a little legwork ourselves to meet people halfway, such as do online research, make a quick phone call, or ask specific questions to better understand the situation.

There needs to be a balance with responsibility.

However, there are times when going beyond what you were hired to do might just be the key to strengthening trust and reliability. For example, perhaps a team member has an approaching deadline but has to take a few sick days. Could you or someone else step in and do the job of that team member to complete the task?

Or let’s say your company partners with another company to provide a complete service. If for some reason your partner company is not responding to your customer, could you step in and do all you can to help your customer resolve his/her issue, even though your partner company is at fault and it is their responsibility?

You have promised to meet a deadline or to fulfill a customer’s expectations. What will you do to keep those assurances?

Build trust by accepting responsibility

Moving beyond reasonable expectations and even challenging ourselves will open more doors than we realize, whether it is customer satisfaction or career opportunities within the company. When others experience your genuine desire to be helpful, your mistakes can often be overlooked.

It is true you cannot please everyone. The customer is no longer always right, and is sometimes downright rude, and some team members are lazy or unmotivated. It would be stressful to carry everyone’s load for them.

But when you, either as the employer or employee, look at the individual situation, how far can you honestly go for other human beings? Do you want to build a good reputation with your company, product and brand? Do you want to strengthen relationships within your organization and outside of it?

Loyalty is difficult to achieve since many people have had multiple experiences with being deceived and disappointed. However, when they experience a sincere effort on your part to help right a wrong and to lead by example, you build trust and loyalty.

Ensuring positive experiences for customers and employees is more important than ever before for companies to be sustainable and profitable and to grow.

Ask yourself: How important is it to me and my company to maintain positive relationships founded on trust and loyalty? Those are the relationships that help companies survive challenging times and into the future.