Visitors are navigating to your site, browsing, and even making purchases—but do they trust your brand? It may sound like an odd question, but the seemingly vague notion of trust has become critically important to consumers and can radically change the way in which people interact with your brand and website.
“Moore’s Law states that every 15 years computers get a thousand times more powerful,” renowned business strategist Don Peppers explains, “Zuckerberg’s Law says that every 15 years, we interact a thousand times as much with others.” Indeed, the explosion of social networks, shared media, and publishing and communications channels means that we are interacting with each other more than ever—and this same technology has increased the number of touch points in consumer relationships and buying decisions, too.
“Trust,” Peppers argues, “greatly improves the speed and efficiency of interacting, so the more interacting we do, the more trust we come to expect from others, including the businesses we buy from.” Put another way, “trust between people is the lubricant for all interaction, so the more ubiquitous interaction becomes the more it requires trust.” But what does “trust” in this context really mean? And what can we do to improve it?
Such an abstract idea—and commonly used term—can hold a significantly different meaning for each individual. The operational definition—one used by Peppers and those that research the concept—requires one party to rely on the actions of another in a situation that cannot be supervised or observed. It may sound complicated, but there is a simple example that makes it clear: When a person provides a company with an email address, he or she trusts that it will not be abused (sold, spammed, etc.) even though control over its use has been surrendered.
Of course, providing an email is a relatively low risk commitment and, as such, requires a proportionally small degree of trust. As the stakes increase—saving credit card information as part of a customer profile, for example—the trust required increases as well.
For most brands, deepening trust requires conscientious effort. Fortunately, there are three clear factors that can be developed to increase perceptions of trust:
The first factor essential to developing what Peppers calls “trustability” is ability or competency. This factor depends on the demonstration that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill a promise. In the context of ecommerce, this could mean order fulfillment. For subscription-based businesses, it could mean consistent service uptime. Making these expertise and service accomplishments clear through messaging will help emphasize ability and increase trustability. Creating a website experience that is functional, fast, and easy to use, too, helps to cultivate confidence in ability.
Benevolence may sound like an odd—or unnecessary—quality for a company to develop, but it is perhaps the most critical factor for increasing trust. Put in more concrete, applied terms, benevolence is the perception that a brand is concerned with the wellbeing of its customers. Offering resources that can help—not just sell to—customers is one way of doing this. Another is offering clear deals on—or even emphasizing the value of—products and services. Guarantees, free trials, and other assurances can also encourage perceptions of benevolence.
Integrity, in this context, describes perceptions that a brand holds and adheres to values that are important to customers as well. Integrity is especially important when something goes wrong—a shipping delay or error, for example, or a data breach. Customer service communications across all channels is an essential tool for emphasizing integrity—and a smart strategy must be in place to avoid disaster. Beyond this, however, Peppers argues that brands must be proactively trustworthy—making efforts to fix problems or provide services even when it is not legally or ethically necessary to do so—to remain competitive in a business environment characterized by customer interactions.
Thanks to Zuckerberg’s Law, it is no longer sufficient for businesses to be honest. While this is, obviously, the most basic requirement, the changing business environment now demands the active cultivation of deep trust—something that must be communicated through every customer interaction, across every page of a website.
In addition to panel discussions, case study presentations, and small group conversations, Click Summit 2014 featured a special keynote from Don Peppers. Get a few takeaways from the event and check back for information about next year’s Click Summit.