Building trust for a digital business is not an easy task, but it is essential for every site, especially in the hotel industry - that wants quality and loyal customers to trust and make direct reservations. So how do you build trust between digital businesses and potential clients? Get 16 practical steps to help increase sales
How to build trust
The Web is a channel, not a tool, although many marketers will define it as such. As a channel, it offers you a broad choice of tools to help you sell, but to be successful you need to build genuine relationships with consumers and trust is an essential commodity to support you in this quest. Because trust is the lifeblood of every business relationship.
The relatively anonymous nature of the Web will make gaining trust a challenge for many entrepreneurs. Here are some useful tips to help you build trust. In 2012, the Edelman Trust Barometer identified 16 key components that build trust, which remained consistent through the years.
Infographic credit: Edelman.com
The 16 attributes of trustworthy business are enough to give you an idea of what it takes to build trust. According to Edelman, companies need to have ethical business practices, take responsible actions to address crisis, and have transparent and open business practices. This is the first cluster of “integrity” attributes that are essential to building trust, but the second cluster called “engagement” is equally essential in my view.
It entitles a company that listens to customer needs and feedback, treats employees well, places customers ahead of profits, and communicates clearly and frequently the state of its business. High-quality products and services, listed in the third cluster of key attributes to building trust, matter too, and so do all other elements of the 16 Key Attributes to Building Trust by Edelman. This time, however, we will deal with those factors that you can influence online directly.
Unless you are already an established brand, or if you are just a budding business, building trust is a hard task. But it’s not an impossible one. All you need to remember are the rule of the four Cs: commitment, competence, communication, and consideration.
- Always deliver on your promise: that means commitment, or, in other words, do what you say.
- You also should be able to do what you promise, meaning that you have to be competent for the job.
- To do what you say means to always say what you mean, which is clear communication, another rule that will help you build trust.
- Finally, always be considerate to the people you are talking to.
These rules are not just fluff. All successful businesses today employ them or change their business approach to follow suit. For instance, Aldi Süd, will be the first major European supermarket to ban pesticides that harm bees from its product line by the end of 2017 according to various news sources; McDonald's is also trying to capitalize on organic menus; hotels go green; more and more environmentally businesses open every day; and the list goes on. To make a long story short: you can only build trust if you show commitment, competence, communication, and consideration to your clients, but also to your employees, business partners, and peers.
For business in hospitality, the effort goes beyond the rules because you need to meet your customers where they are: on various social networks, apps, and so on. That means that you have to adapt to a constantly changing environment and to learn how to “speak their language.” Share “moments” on Facebook, push candid photos on Instagram, design lovely “postcards” for Pinterest, be an early adopter of promising apps like Snapchat, tweet your latest special offers, update your Google+ profile, and address TripAdvisor reviews timely and reverently, to enumerate just a few tools at your disposal.
How to measure trust
There are several ways to measure trust in a Web environment, and there are also tools to help you determine how people perceive your business. Usually, such services are provided by a competent PR agency, but you can always attempt the exercise in house. Measuring trust is useful to help you how your clients see your business, what programs and activities influence their purchase decisions, how their opinions impact others, and so on.
Public relations professionals measure trust through Web analytics, brand awareness, sentiment, and engagement measurement tools like Radian6 and Brandwatch; online influence tools like Klout; TrustYou for monitoring TripAdvisor reviews; and so on. Depending on the size of your organization, you can choose a paid tool, or simply count on freebies to find out when your clients talk about you and what they say. You can also run a variety of surveys to learn how clients perceive your services, what they want to be improved, and so on. While software can give you a decent insight into what you should look at, manual analysis is necessary to further research and to discover whether their machine-delivered results represent, in fact, trust.
Sentiment is a fundamental measurement feature that can, alone, determine, whether the person talking about your business trusts you or not. Sometimes, social media mentions can be harmful, which may well mean that your company’s trust score can go down impacting brand reputation and ROI immediately and in the long term too. There’s a lot of anonymity allowed on social networks. Often, the ones attacking your brand can be competitors.
Sites like TripAdvisor take active steps in curving fake reviews, but Facebook, Twitter, and the like have little control over what their users are posting. And the bigger your business grows, the higher the risks. You will eventually need reputation management tools to safeguard your hard-earned trust online if you do not employ a specialized company to do this task for you. They’ll also help you differentiate the true consumers for bots designed to enhance the numbers of likes, fans, and followers.
Because you want humans to trust and follow you, not bots. Also, remember that people who like and follow your status updates don’t necessarily trust you. Many consumers are passive online, following your updates without taking any action (clicks, likes, comments, and ultimately buys), but among the “silent” watchers, there could be real buyers who only wait for the right moment. The best way to measure trust is based on actions.
Consumers voice their opinions on Twitter and Facebook more than anywhere else. To measure trust, you have to use a social media monitoring tool that gives you insight into conversations on these two social networks too. There are many free and reliable ones, with premium features that dig deeper for a more unobstructed view of conversations about your brand on the Internet.
But while monitoring Facebook and Twitter can be difficult, watching TripAdvisor and Google reviews should be a mandatory task for anyone working in hospitality. Both companies offer hoteliers and restaurant owners the tools to monitor and address reviews timely, and the option to report fake or malicious reviews. But even these two companies do not offer the “verified” review guarantee.
Reviews and trust: do they converge?
The answer to this question is obvious: they do. Because trust influences customer decisions, reviews that don’t convey trust have a negative impact on… well, pretty much everything you try to do online.
It is imperative to address reviews of any kind quickly and courteously, to prove that you are paying attention to customer feedback. Remember that listening to customer feedback is one of the 16 attributes identified by the Edelman Trust Barometer as essential to building trust.
It is also common sense to believe that by engaging meaningfully with customers and peers they will trust you more. This is why managing reviews is such an important task. We discussed in previous articles how reviews are essential for digital marketing survival.
The statistics don’t lie: a Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report released in 2015 and still cited today (because the numbers haven’t changed much) revealed that about 83% of the interviewees would recommend a company they trust to others and consumer opinions posted online (aka reviews) ranked at a whopping 60%. You will also want to read the cited report to see how customers view traditional advertising too.
Reviews can influence purchase decisions, so it’s in your best interest to address them, positive or negative, as soon as they are posted. Do not hide behind the “no time, no money” excuse. In the long run, a bad review can cost you more than hiring a professional to monitor and reply. As we often advise, respond to all reviews, good or bad. You establish trust by putting all your customers first, whether they are happy or discontented. Reward positive reviews and promise to improve when clients complain about certain issues to make the trust barometer rise.
Also, always remember that by addressing negative feedback instead of blocking or removing it, you are showing people that you have nothing to hide, that you are open to criticism, and therefore, that you are trustworthy. Do NOT remove negative reviews unless they are fake.
The security you should care about
There’s no “security” online. There. I said it. There are, however, steps to take to make your clients feel better about entrusting you with personal information such as credit card numbers, addresses, passwords, and the like.
Google already demands (as opposed to recommends) for you to use HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) to protect “the integrity and confidentiality of data between the user's computer and the site,” and they are starting to block sites that do not comply in the Chrome browser. While in the past it was recommended that hoteliers have at least their booking engine HTTPS compliant, now it is imperative that their whole sites comply.
The moment Google displays a red flag in relation to your site, you lose: direct customers and search engine rankings at the same time, which, in turn, will destroy your reputation (and hard-earned trust) in the long term.
Have a clear site security policy in place to let customers know what to expect and to avoidlitigations. Keep in mind that Internet trust is at an all time low, and any business with a data breach my suffer irreparable damages. The 2016 Global Internet Report by the Internet Society stated that about 60% of users would likely not do business with a company which had suffered a data breach and that according to the Online Trust Alliance, 93 percent of breaches are preventable.
And do not be surprised that we are mentioning security here. It’s 2017, and 89% of hotel websites don’t use HTTPS (!). If you own one of these websites, you should reconsider your strategy. FAST. Besides, as all statistics confirm, secure, trustworthy sites bring more direct bookings.