The Trust Thermocline Explains How Companies “Suddenly” Lose Customers And Employees

You Will Not Get A Second Chance To Burn Trust


This image lifted from the Thermocline Wikipedia article and resized, see license.

I came across this tweet this morning and it perfectly explains a phenomenon that all customers and employees intuitively understand.

“So: what’s a thermocline? Well large bodies of water are made of layers of differing temperatures. Like a layer cake. The top bit is where all the the waves happen and has a gradually decreasing temperature. Then SUDDENLY there’s a point where it gets super-cold.”

The Trust Thermocline in Products and Services

John Bull’s explanation is straightforward: if you gradually provide less quality for more money, you are gradually eroding your customers’ trust in you as a provider. At some point your customers will lose faith and bail, and it won’t be because of one specific change. It will be due to a breach of faith so bad that leaving or switching to a new provider will be worth the cost.

He explains that this breach is never sudden and silent. Customers complain — everyone on Medium is familiar with this, every time there’s a change in algorithm or interface a multitude of articles come out declaring the end of Medium — but their grumblings are largely ignored by the provider because the customers are still putting money down.

But continuing to put money down doesn’t signal trust as much as it indicates lock-in.

Avoiding the Trust Thermocline

According to Bull, if you find yourself with staff or departments dedicated to customer retention, you’re probably well on your way to the Trust Thermocline. Your services and value for money should be keeping your customers, not begging and bribing. Here’s the unroll for the…



Adam Fisher / fisher king (@therightstuff)

Software developer and writer of words, currently producing a graphic novel adaptation of Shakespeare's Sonnets! See for details.