Technology has upended this. Now, the masses are more trusted than leaders, and the world's largest companies (think Google, Facebook and Amazon) have almost zero face-to-face interaction with customers.
So how is trust built today? To answer this question, our team studied SiteJabber's million-member community of customers and the 60,000 businesses the community has reviewed. Here’s what we learned.
Privacy balancing act
In the post-Snowden world, privacy has become a key branding differentiator for the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Seventy-two percent of Americans are reluctant to share information with businesses because they "just want to maintain [their] privacy." But respecting privacy need not only involve pledges of fighting government information requests, using the latest encryption technology and promises not to sell user data. Respect for privacy and building trust with customers can start with simply not asking customers for any more information than is absolutely necessary.
For example, consumers are often told that when dealing with an unfamiliar business, requests for unnecessary information should be seen as a red flag. That is, if you're buying a pair of sneakers online, there is no reason that a business should be asking for your birthdate, social security number, annual income, copies of your ID or credit card, and so on. (Far-fetched? Not really – you'd be surprised by how many online businesses ask for these things). On SiteJabber, one of the most common customer complaints involves businesses that ask for too much personal information too soon. So a great way to build trust is to limit the information you collect from customers in the first place. Even if you pass up near-term marketing opportunities, the trust you build with customers can be worth much more down the road.
Brand "background checks"
Brand and trust now matter more than ever. Sixty-two percent of a global company's value is "intangible", which means that brand and customer goodwill are critical components. Contrast that to 1950, when intangible value was only 30 percent.
Even if you pass up near-term marketing opportunities, the trust you build with customers can be worth much more down the road.
But how do customers first learn about your brand today? Google. As many as 20 percent of all Google queries are navigational; that is people searching for brands and information about brands. Other common searches from prospective customers include your brand plus the word "reviews" or "complaints." What appears on those Google search pages defines how prospective customers first see your brand. This behooves businesses not just to monitor branded search queries, but to actively manage what appears on those pages. This means robustly developing social media properties, cultivating online press, and actively managing customer reviews and complaints. We commonly see SiteJabber community members write posts saying things like, "I was considering XYZ company, but I Googled them and they have horrible press/complaints/customer service issues, etc."
Gone are the days when a handful of customer testimonials and case studies are enough to persuade new customers to buy. An incredible 90 percent of Americans say buying decisions are influenced by reviews. But what is the best way to develop reviews for your brand?
Tech-savvy customers will trust your brand more if they see legitimate customer reviews from independent third-party review sites. Beyond that, at SiteJabber we have found that there are three key takeaways for businesses:
- More is better. Businesses with more than 1,000 reviews receive 672 percent more leads and have an 18-percent higher rating.
- Customers don't trust reviews if they don't see at least some bad ones. Businesses with 10-30 percent negative reviews actually receive more than 10 times more leads than businesses with nearly all five-star reviews.
- Respond professionally to every review. Businesses that respond to every review have an 86-percent higher rating than those that don't.
Businesses with 10-30 percent negative reviews actually receive more than 10 times more leads than businesses with nearly all five-star reviews.
Professionalism used to mean a pressed suit, a firm handshake and good manners. These days customer trust hinges more on how you present yourself on your website. Our community on SiteJabber has indicated the following items can all build trust for a brand:
- Clear contact information: phone number, email address and physical address. Bonus points for real-time online chat.
- Clean, modern website design that works well on desktop and mobile and is compatible with all common browser/OS combinations. It should not look like a template or have broken formatting.
- Links to press mentions, awards and industry group memberships
- Links to social media assets and reviews
- No grammatical or spelling errors
- No broken links
- Informative videos (but should only play when clicked on — no autoplay)
- No sounds or music (except in videos)
- SSL/HTTPs when possible
- Fast page load times
- Detailed "about us" area
- Clear terms and privacy pages
- No pop-up windows
- Upfront pricing information
- Fast turnaround on customer service and sales inquiries (ideally within one business day)
- Upfront terms and conditions on purchases — buried subscription, cancelation and return policies are a top-10 complaint