Consumers Find It Harder to Trust Companies – But Are They Being Hypocritical?

January 15, 2020

Ford Adults Declining Trust in Companies Jan2020More than two-thirds (67%) of adults from across the globe say they have higher expectations for brands than they did in the past, with 7 in 10 US consumers (71%) saying that poor customer service frustrates them more than it used to. These higher expectations go deeper than customer service, as the majority of consumers across 14 countries say it’s become harder to trust what companies say and do, per a recent report [pdf] from Ford.

Across most of the countries surveyed, consumers are finding it difficult to trust companies, as more than three-quarters of respondents from the US (77%), the UK (79%) and Spain (79%) report this growing mistrust. Distrust is particularly problematic in France, Canada, Australia, Italy and India, where more than 8 in 10 respondents are increasingly skeptical. That compares with China, somewhat of an outlier in there being only 55% of respondents finding it more difficult to trust what a company says or the actions it takes.

Although companies acknowledge that customer trust and loyalty are essential, Ford found that two-thirds (67%) of the consumers surveyed say that once a brand loses their trust, there is no getting that trust back. Another 40% go further than turning their back on a brand by trying to dissuade their friends and family from doing business with companies they don’t like.

Company Ethics and Sustainability Efforts Matter

Previous research has found that consumers in the US are more likely to trust a company that goes beyond growing the business and takes an active and authentic role in having a positive impact on the world. This recent report shows that global consumers have similar expectations of companies, with more than half (52%) reporting that they are attracted to brands that stand for something bigger than the products and services they sell and that aligns with their personal values.

One of those values includes where a company sources their materials, with three-quarters of respondents claiming that when they buy products they care about responsible sourcing of materials. Moreover, two-thirds (66%) of respondents say that, beyond price and quality, they are attracted to brands that are transparent about issues such as where materials are sourced and if employees are treated fairly.

Consumers Don’t Always Follow Through with Sustainability Efforts

While consumers expect companies to value sustainability and act ethically, they do not always follow through with this commitment in their own lives. Convenience appears to factor into this contradiction over how consumers think companies should act and how they conduct themselves. To wit, three in 5 (59%) global respondents admit that they care more about purchase convenience than they do brand values.

A study by YouGov shows that a large majority of US consumers are attracted to brands that show a commitment to sustainability, yet almost half (48%) of those surveyed by Ford say they only embrace sustainable initiatives – such as not using plastic straws and carrying reusable bags – if the inconvenience to them is small or nonexistent. The percentage is even higher in countries such as France (78%) and India (76%).

On a more encouraging note, nearly 4 in 5 (78% of) global respondents say they are actively changing their behavior to help in the fight against climate change. With the majority of Gen Z and Millennial respondents indicating that they feel guilty about the amount of products they buy but don’t use, 60% of respondents overall say they are more open to buying used goods than they were 5 years ago, and 53% say that buying secondhand is trendier than buying a great item new.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Findings are based on an online survey of 13,003 adults across 14 countries: 1,000 in each country save for the “Middle East” (Saudi Arabia and UAE: 500 each).

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