The 10 Most Important Ways to Build Trust in Companies (According to Consumers)

January 25, 2017

Trust in bedrock institutions – NGOs, business, media and the government – is declining worldwide, reveals Edelman in its latest annual Trust Barometer report, and business stands “on the brink of distrust.” In fact, just 37% of general population respondents around the world find CEOs to be credible, an all-time low. In such an environment, how can businesses build trust?

The survey asked respondents around the world to identify which of 31 dimensions – grouped into 10 categories – were most important to building their trust in a company. (Importance was measured as a top-2 box on a 9-point scale.)

Looking first at the overarching categories, the results suggest that attributes relating to integrity and engagement are most important, followed by those relating to products and citizenship.

The individual attributes deemed most important by the largest share of respondents are:

  • Treats employees well (62%);
  • Offers high-quality products or services (59%);
  • Listens to customer needs and feedback (58%);
  • Pays its fair share of taxes (56%);
  • Has ethical business practices (56%);
  • Takes responsible actions to address an issue or a crisis (55%);
  • Has transparent and open business practices (55%);
  • Places customers ahead of profits (55%);
  • Communicates frequently and honestly on the state of its business (52%); and
  • Works to protect and improve the environment (52%).

It’s worth highlighting some of the above attributes, as their importance has also appeared in other research.

Who Do Consumers Trust?

Returning to the Edelman study, one question arises: if consumers don’t trust CEOs, who do they trust?

Interestingly, peers are now as trusted as experts when consumers are forming opinions of companies. Some 60% would consider information they heard from a person like themselves to be very or extremely credible, on par with the proportion who would consider information from technical and academic experts to be credible.

Looking at various topics to be communicated – and changing the set of spokesperson options – the results demonstrate that employees are more trusted than senior executives and company CEOs in communicating all topics, including financial earnings, business practices and innovation efforts.

Media spokespeople were the least trusted to communicate each topic.

Finally, the study notes some interesting responses with regards to credibility of sources of information:

  • 62% of general population respondents would be more likely to believe a company’s social media posts than its advertising (38%);
  • 57% find spontaneous speakers to be more believable than rehearsed speakers (43%);
  • 54% deem blunt and outspoken styles more believable than diplomatic and polite ones (46%); and
  • 51% trust personal experience over data (49%).

About the Data: The results above are based on a survey of 32,200 general population respondents across 28 countries.

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