Survey Confirms Declining Trust in Business: Five Steps to Meet this Challenge

January 19, 2017

The Edelman Trust Barometer is the largest macro study on trust worldwide. This year Edelman summarizes the survey findings as “Trust in Crisis.”
Trust in government, media, non-government organizations and business have declined significantly in the last 5 years. Trust in the media is at an all time low with distrust rating of 82%. Eighty five percent lack a full belief in the system. Globally, “Business is on the Brink of Distrust,” with 52% trust. 

So what does this mean? What can businesses do? The following 5 actions can make a direct impact on your business.

Survey Finding: Only 52% trust business to do what is right. 

Action #1: Trust should be managed. Trust is a critical success factor for businesses. The days of intention-based marketing are over. It is all about relationships. Companies and employees must focus on earning and protecting the trust of their customers. Survey Finding: 60% “trust a person like yourself” and content provided by employees is the most trusted. Sixty two percent believe a company’s social media versus company advertising 38%. Only 37% trust a CEO as a very/ extremely credible spokesperson. This is an all time low.

Action #2: Involve employees in communications. It is the front line employees that play a critical role in building and protecting high trust levels for the organization. We interact with businesses online. The power to communicate with the customer rests with the employees. Information flow cannot be controlled top down or online. My research confirms all employees have a part to play in building a culture of trust and building relationships.
Survey Finding: 60% trust technical experts; academic experts and a “person like yourself.” Peers are as credible as experts. 

Action #3: Train all staff, including technicians, to become comfortable and confident communicating with customers. Involve technical staff in discussions and provide them the tools and skills to become trusted advisors to your customers. It takes employees from every part of the organization to support the customer strategy. People want to hear from their peers, from the people who are doing the job and from the subject matter experts. We often trust our neighbors and friends opinions more that we trust those that we sense are “self serving experts.” Survey Finding: 53% do not regularly listen to people or organizations with whom they often disagree. People are nearly 4 times more likely to ignore information that supports a position they do not believe in. 

Action #4: Listen to customers. Business needs to listen and gather objective customer insights. Listening without bias and without, what I call, emotional filters involves obtaining objective customer feedback. Companies can do this by hiring a third party objective researcher. Survey Finding: 67% say listening to customers is the most important action companies can take. 

Action #5: Measure your customer’s trust in your business. We started this list stating business should manage trust. Only 52% trust business to do what is right. As Peter Drucker is famous for saying, “What gets measured gets managed.” Businesses should survey their customers and measure Customer Trust. It is critical to know if your customers trust you.

To build a culture of trust we must proactively manage how we communicate, how we behave and how we serve our customers.