Most businesses would answer that question, “Yes, of course – they are my customer.” However, a recent survey reveals that the customer trusts the businesses employees more than the leadership, ownership or C-Level executives. In fact, just 37% of general population respondents around the world find company leadership to be credible, an all-time low.
“With the fall of trust, the majority of respondents now lack full belief that the overall system is working for them. To rebuild trust and restore faith in the system, institutions must step outside of their traditional roles and work toward a new, more integrated operating model that puts people — and the addressing of their fears — at the center of everything they do.” ~ Edelman Trust Barometer Global Results
How can businesses build trust? Has the shift to e-commerce platforms changed the way the consumer views the company they do business with? If the consumer does not trust the business leadership, who do they trust?
The massive shift over the past decade, that being consumers shopping online versus in a brick-and-mortar store as been nothing short of astounding. This shift has caused the consumer in their mass to regain authority over the established business, the established business now scrambles based upon data that confirms the decisions the consumer makes. The consumer now has influence and authority.
In a recent survey, consumers were asked to identify which attributes (pick three of thirty-one) is most important to building trust in the company they choose to do business with. Here are some of the results.
- 62% – treat employees well.
- 59% – offer high quality products and services
- 58% – listen to the customer
- 56% – has ethical business practices
- 55% – has transparent business practices
Your customer values integrity, engagement and ethical business practices. Quality and reliable products have always been at the cornerstone of trust for the consumer. However, transparency is also globally recognized as a core value that brands should bring forth. Honesty and transparency was given as a response, more than two-to-one over generosity, simplicity, social activity, passion and warmth.
Who does your customer trust?
Trust is about a person. Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. Social media has become the local gossip and chat resource for today’s consumer. Since the consumer does not trust the company’s leadership to convey an honest assessment of the products and services offered, over 60% of consumers turn to other fellow consumers to form their opinion of brands. The person they feel is credible is the person they know, someone like themselves. This is why the customer turns to the employee, as a more trusted spokesperson when communicating and answering queries.
The consumer now has influence and authority.
How to build trust in ecommerce.
Most marketing tactics focus on the quick grab and the one-time close. Not enough attention goes to building long lasting trust. The evidence above supports the need to reverse this mindset. Companies with ecommerce websites, where the customer is often deprived from the face-to-face contact, can reap rewards by building trust online. This is proven by numerous survey, where customers have repeatedly stated the same answers above apply to online versus -brick-and-mortar, with the exception being shipping charges and price sensitivity ranking higher for the online shopper, but still not out ranking integrity points.
- Be transparent. Trust is discouraged by anonymity and being secretive. Write descriptions of your products that convey accurately what is being offered, support those with high quality images and video demonstrations.
- Do not hide your failures. When the complaints become public, do not attempt to remove them, we all make mistakes. The key to expanding trust is dealing with problems in the open and treating the situation with fairness. The consumer wants to see what happens when it happens to them. Silence is a terrible strategy. Not responding immediately can be even worse. When you have a problem with a product, post it on your website as a status update.
- Match your values to your customer. As the customer relationship matures, the business communication becomes more frequent. Expressing your business values can amplify being liked. A report in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, the authors report that the act of liking has a role that is richer and qualitatively different from that of the more cognitive antecedents of trust. They argue that as the buyer relationship matures, liking plays an even more important role in influencing trust. To be likeable online, use direct contact channels like Facebook, Twitter and website live chat.
- Outsider opinions matter. External social proof can be powerful online. Testimonials by celebrities, centers of influence in your industry and admired fellow business leaders have a unique position in the eye of the consumer. “When someone has a higher status than you, or even just thinks he does, his mind tells him that you need him more than he needs you. Consequently, he’s more likely to satisfy short-term desires and worry less about the long-term consequences of being untrustworthy”. ~ David DeSteno at Harvard Business Review. Look for endorsements, testimonials, media reports and badges that can be used as an outsider opinion.
- Humanize your brand. “Your customers are human. Your partners are human. Your employees are human. Even your social media fans and followers are human. Humanizing your brand is a requirement, not an option if you want to survive in business today. Yes, you can put brand humanization on hold. However, every day you lose is a day you could be building relationships, nurturing friendships, establishing and earning the respect of powerful brand evangelists who will shout from a mountain top how wonderful you and your brand are”. ~ Pam Moore at Marketing Nutz Your customer, with that first transaction, releases their hard-earned money despite their sense of the future unknown. Your ecommerce website does not help this situation. Your logo, your URL, your autoresponder and your delivered package represents your company. Make your company more human will gain more trust. But how do you become more human in this digital world? Avoid industry jargon, avoid the need to use words the average human does not understand, the right message needs to match the right social channel, etc. Answer the phone! Use live chat! Have a human being man the comments on social media. Randomly hand write an email to your new customers.
- Avoid multi-system chaos. The more hoops your customer has to go through just to voice a concern or order something special the worse they feel about trusting your ecommerce website. This holds true for the employees that process such order for shipment or tracking in your CRM. Work hard to reduce complexity without damaging your internal controls. Your employees must sound confident on the phone and believe in your ethics, transparency and documentation.
- Consider what makes you unique. The longer your sales cycle, the more complex your offer is, the more important this becomes. You must test the balance between stuffing your product’s description with keywords and over wrought details, while conversely presenting a clear path to customer service for every question that crosses the mind of the consumer. Disclosure has an effect on trust.
Trust can be broken faster than it can be built. This is true in our face-to-face personal relationships and this is true with our ecommerce websites. In closing consider a few interesting facts from the study referenced above as the basis of this article. 62% of general population respondents would be more likely to believe a company’s social media posts than its advertising (38%). 54% deem blunt and outspoken styles more believable than diplomatic and polite ones (46%). Finally, the consumer wants you to give them product suggestions that are relevant to their interests, but most consumers don’t want their data used.
At Viral Solutions, we teach our clients to systematize the ecommerce transaction, front and back, so that the business growth is sustainable. At the same time we teach our clients to never forget their is a real person buying your goods and processing transactions. If you trust your employees, train and empower them to remember every order is for a real person, then support that flow of information with secure and stable processes – you’ll have an excellent foundation to build upon.
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Angel of Innovative Artistry and Design for Viral Solutions LLC