Scaling customer and employee trust – Interview with Peter Muhlmann of Trustpilot

Today’s interview is with Peter Mühlmann, Founder and CEO of Trustpilot. You might recall that I interviewed Jan Jensen, Trustpilot’s CMO back in July 2014 about ‘Using customer reviews to drive service improvement, WoM and growth’. This time around Peter joins me on the podcast to talk about they have been able to maintain their company’s culture as well as their ability to deliver an excellent customer experience in the face of rapid sales, employee and geographical growth in the last few years.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Text messaging: a customer service channel whose time has come – Interview with John Huehn of In The Chat – and is number 139 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Highlights of interview with Peter:

  • At Trustpilot they are creating a global standard for trust through the medium of reviews.
  • Being the founder and being the CEO are two very different roles.
  • A founder is the cultural leader.
  • When you start a business, culture just comes by itself.
  • There are a lot of things that are unsaid that are implicitly understood.
  • Trustpilot has experienced some massive growth in recent years: 80 percent year-over-year revenue growth and an increase in staff from 26 to 127 to 325 across its offices on three continents.
  • Around the 120 people mark something happens to the human psychology (perhaps the ‘tribe’ gets too big) and things start to change and people no longer know each other or know everyone.
  • They also start to lose sight of what they are doing and why they are doing it.
  • This starts to create a cultural barrier that you have to get through.
  • Peter has also seen another barrier when they reached 300 people when people don’t ‘know’ Peter any more. They know who he is but they don’t know him and he doesn’t know them on an individual level.
  • Culture is the glue in the company.
  • If everyone knows our values, why we are doing what we are doing, how we are doing it and how we treat each other then the company becomes much more autonomous and efficient.
  • Peter is inspired by Simon Sinek’s book: ‘Start With Why’ and says that they always start with the why.
  • As a company grows, there is a lot of focus on the how and the what because that’s what you measure and that is what is being reported to everybody.
  • But, at the end of the day, people don’t work because of the how and the what they work because of the why.
  • So, on the meta level, Trustpilot are also communicating and reinforcing their why as they know that their how and what will follow.
  • On a practical level, to build their culture and community they do a number of things including always eating together and a number of social and sporting clubs.
  • They now have around 100 people in New York and whilst the culture is a lot more American there, when compared to their Danish roots, they have been able to replicate their overall culture, where people really care about each other.
  • Peter has also been leading by example and showing people that he cares about them. In particular, one of the things that he does is make sure that he treats everyone the same way and with the same respect whether they are the CMO or a new intern.
  • Trustpilot’s value’s are trust, care and a winning mentality.
  • When they say trust they mean that they are not monitoring when their people get into the office or leave or how much they use social media but rather they focus on trusting them to do their jobs.
  • In return, it wants its people to trust them and trust that leadership has their best interests at heart.
  • Trustpilot wants its staff to take that trust and treat it with a winning and caring attitude, so that they show that they care about each other, they care about the company and together they create great results.
  • This encourages openness, honesty and transparency.
  • The result: a flat and very meritocratic organisation that solves problems in a very constructive way.
  • Be an approachable human being regardless of your position.
  • Trustpilot is working on an application/service where they can help their clients use their customers reviews to drive employee engagement. A positive feedback loop back into the organisation.

About Peter

Peter MuhlmannPeter Mühlmann founded Trustpilot in 2007 and has been the main driver behind the company’s continuous global expansion. In 2013, Peter was named Danish Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young. Trustpilot has customers in 65 countries and offices in Copenhagen, London, New York and Melbourne. Trustpilot was selected as one of Crain’s 2014 Best Places to Work in New York City with 300 employees representing 40 nationalities.

Peter is yet to start blogging but aims to start soon at http://muhlmann.com/. You can also connect with Peter on Twitter @Peter_Muhlmann and on LinkedIn here.

Finally, check out www.trustpilot.com

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