The new digital age has completely reshaped the way people do business. Barriers to entry have been so far removed, virtually anybody can create, pitch, and bring a product to the market. People now trust total strangers to drive them across cities, host them in homes, and even safeguard their belongings. ‘Trust’ is what makes services like these possible, but how exactly is it won and lost in practical terms?
In a global study by Nielsen, online reviews came third as the form of media most trusted by consumers. However, trust itself in reviews has seen a minor decline in recent years, owing to the prevalence of fake reviews. ‘Which?’ recently ran a high-profile campaign about fake reviews. They found that 97% of UK adults use online customer reviews when researching a purchase, but they also flagged a number of ways online sellers were tricking Amazon and Facebook’s system and artificially inflating their review scores.
Additionally, ‘Tripadvisor’, the holy grail of travel reviews, saw trust in their review system decrease by 25% in a study by travel association ABTA in 2018 due to its unverified review system. Almost every business publishes reviews, but using verifies systems like Trustpilot, Which? and Feefo add the authenticity factor that reviews have been made by genuine customers. This makes room for bad reviews, which actually shouldn’t be something a company should want to hide. Seeing negative reviews as a way to learn from customer criticism and demonstrate a commitment to customer service can turn disappointed customers into ambassadors if an adequate level of customer support is offered.
As a brand, one of the best things to win trust is to partner with bigger brands. In part, this is because they improve visibility, but the real value is the implied trust in the smaller brand. Well-respected names increase awareness, traffic, and ultimately conversions.
In the Nielsen study above, branded websites came second, scoring higher than online reviews as a trust factor. This is a strong testament to the value of co-branding. Referral partnerships look at utilising the time-sensitive nature of customer intent and referring customers to each other at their time of need. Referrals from a trusted brand can be as dependable as a referral from friends and family if the larger brand has already won the customer’s trust.
Having appropriate security procedures in place is essential. Beyond the word of other customers and the implied support of bigger brands, customers like to have detailed information about the service they are buying into. Providing these specs in a clear, factual and reassuring manner is fundamental. For accommodation providers example, this means going into detail about the layout, amenities and environment of the property. There is no such thing as providing too much detail. If customers see it and don’t read it, that is a far better outcome than if they look for it, can’t find it, and mentally note their disappointment. This segues into what can be called “value propostion threshold”. The idea that a platform or product, whatever it may be, has a value proposition. For customers to trust a company, the company itself must meet a threshold level of value that makes a purchase worthwhile. The threshold must not only exist, but it must be clearly communicated to the users.
Technology & Design
The graphic appeal of a brand goes without saying. However, how much effort has been put into the design of the tech - the user experience flow. Can customers navigate from landing page to checkout easily, can they find all the information needed... without getting lost. Joe Gebbia, Airbnb’s cofounder and CPO, gave a great TED Talk on this topic. He describes how a well-designed reputation system is critical for building trust. Joe also cites the importance of reviews (10 reviews, by his findings, is the tipping point). As the old adage goes, it is far easier to break trust than build it. Confusing flows, bugs and errors, even just slow load-speed (the majority of customers will be using mobile) can be all it takes to lose a customer and all their future referrals.
Quality of Service
Once the customer has made their purchase, their trust has been gained. Now the company must fulfil it. This is the simplest point of all, but there are two things to keep in mind. A lot has been written over the years on customer delight. Branson sums it up nicely when he says “The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways”. More about the virtues of going the extra mile for customers here.
Good Aftercare & Speed of Support
Despite best efforts, things sometimes go wrong. If the quality of service is not up to standard, the important thing is to deliver proper aftercare. The ability to “ honor customers’ perceived contract, not the company’s legal contract” — Leonard Berry is key. Generosity builds trust, but stinginess destroys it. It isn’t just the quality of customer support, it’s the speed. Chatbots can seem like a saving grace in terms of providing instant responses to queries, but to customers experiencing a problem they are the antithesis of personal, caring service. Prioritise having a responsive support set-up (ideally 24/7). Nevertheless, as technology develops, chatbots will become more effective at fulfilling this role — and even now there are great systems that enable chatbots to detect a customer’s sentiment and transfer them quickly to an agent when needed. Implementing these practices may have seen strenuous at first, but the result has seen Stasher (my company) grow to become the most trusted sharing economy network for luggage storage globally. It has earned us the 2018 and 2019 Gold Trusted Service award from Feefo, along with an average 4.8/5 customer experience rating from over 20,000 reviews. Trust made this possible.
Jacob Wedderburn-Day - is the CEO and co-founder of Stasher, a platform that is redefining the way businesses value space. Stasher unites customers who need temporary city storage with businesses that want to monetise their underused space. Already live in over 250 cities across 6 continents (it will be a while before they launch Antarctica), Stasher has made its name as the platform that helps tourists worldwide safely store their luggage.
Jacob graduated from Keble College, Oxford in 2015, along with roommate and co-founder Anthony Collias. Stasher was born the summer they graduated. Jacob loves sports, in particular football, and of course, travelling.