Regardless of the type of business you're talking about, the importance of building trust cannot be overstated enough. In many ways, it's the most powerful weapon that an organization has -- it's what separates your brand from your closest competitor.
In the "old days," building trust was primarily handled through word of mouth: One satisfied customer tells another, who tells two more, who tells three of their friends, etc.
But, thanks to the power of the internet, the concept of trust has changed for all time -- and, unfortunately, it's grown more complicated, as well. Trust is still more powerful than ever, but the mechanism you use to build it has shifted dramatically.
The key to building trust on the internet is understanding why it is so essential to your mission in the first place.
Trust as reputation management
In many ways, trust is as important as it is because of what it says about your brand's larger reputation. Remember that trust isn't something you're entitled to; it's something that must be earned. You do that by reaching out to your consumers intelligently and thoughtfully.
You also maintain connections with consumers across many channels, including social media, email, your website and more. You do so by acknowledging that not every experience is going to be a perfect one, so when problems do arise, you reach out quickly and handle those problems to customers' satisfaction.
I asked Yuval Fine, founder of Medical Alert System Reviews, his opinion on the matter, and he said, "All of this feeds back into the larger reputation of your brand. Nobody is asking you to be perfect -- but consumers are asking you to always pledge to act with their best interests at heart. If you can prove that you're willing to put in the work to do exactly that, you'll develop the ever-important bond of trust."
Online trust: by the numbers
According to a study conducted by North American Hutrust, an incredible 83 percent of consumers said that they would gladly recommend to others a company that they trusted. In the digital age, it is almost impossibly easy for them to do so. A satisfied customer no longer needs to call up a friend to give his or her recommendation. With social media, this person, with a single retweet, can spread the word about an interaction with your business to, potentially, a limitless number of people. And, rest assured, people are paying attention.
So why is trust online so important? Because it's important to consumers, which means it pretty much needs to be important to you by default.
Take online reviews, for example. While they're certainly a controversial topic, as negative online reviews can be posted even if they don't accurately reflect a situation, it's hard to deny their ultimate power.
In a study by Search Engine Land, 88 percent of all consumers surveyed said that they trusted online reviews just as much as personal recommendations -- if not more. Likewise, the experts at Reputation X revealed that businesses with mostly one- or two-star reviews on sites like Yelp failed to convert roughly 90 percent of their prospective customers. Let that sink in for a second.
If you think you're talking about only a small segment of the population that reads these online reviews, you may want to think again. Per Vendasta, 92 percent of consumers surveyed said they now read online reviews on a regular basis.
In the end, other companies are competing for the same consumers you are. They have employees with similar qualifications. They offer similar products or servers. Their prices may even be similar to yours, if not better.
But what those other companies may not have is the same connection of good, honest trust with your audience that you have. This is perhaps the most important thing about your business that you can actually control; and if you fail to do so -- if you fail to work at it and cultivate it and maintain it -- you could be leaving a great deal of money on the table, as a result.