There’s been a global collapse in trust. Here’s what you can do about it.

In January of 2017, marketing firm Edelman published the results of their global trust survey.  They’ve been conducting this survey for almost two decades, and so have tons of fantastic data to work with.

They found some fairly disturbing news:

Trust in four key institutions — the government, business, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the media — had declined across the board.

Since we’re all about business here, we’re going to do a bit of a deep dive on what is causing this decline in trust, and what the business community can do about it.

Business didn’t fall too far

First, some good news: between last year’s survey and this one, trust in business only fell one percentage point globally, from 53% trusting the institution of business down to 52%.

And that 52% is good enough to be considered neutral — neither trusted nor untrusted.

(Source, Slide 10)

But not everything is rosy, or even neutral, for business.

  • Business is distrusted in 13 countries, many of which have developed economies. These include major players in the global economy like the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Germany.
  • Only 37% of people think CEOs are credible.

So what can your business do?

First, let’s take a look at the things that you shouldn’t do:

(Source, Slide 44)

Okay, this may seem hugely obvious. Make good things. Don’t avoid taxes. Don’t pay bribes.

But what’s key in every single one of those is the idea of fairness.

People all around the world want to know that they’re participating in a fair system. That they’re getting what they’re paying for, and that the people who are selling to them aren’t cutting corners.

What to do: while it’s not smart to point out that you don’t avoid taxes and don’t skimp on quality to drive up profits, it is smart to emphasize the good you’re doing.

If you sell raincoats, you’re keeping the people who make them employed. If you sell coffee beans, you’re helping the people who grow and roast them.

You’re doing good with your business. Tell that story everywhere you can: in your About section, in your product descriptions — everywhere.

And now some of the good stuff

We just saw what makes businesses less trusted. What about more trusted?

(Source, Slide 45)

That’s interesting, isn’t it?

And here’s another stat from the survey: the most trusted people are no longer technical or academic experts. Worldwide, the most trusted people are “a person like yourself”.

So what can we make of this information?

Take a look at that picture above. The good news is that you, the business owner, have a lot of say in those fields. But how will customers know if you’re doing any of those things?

We’re back to our old friend social proof. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that social proof is a way for business to convert new customers by leveraging the power of their previous ones.

For at least three of the above reasons to trust a business, social proof can be your ally. Let’s take a look.

  • Treats employees well
    • How to do this: Glassdoor is one of the most popular websites for job-seekers. But it’s also a place to get a sense of how employees are treated. If you have employees, ask them to leave a Glassdoor review. That way, people can see how well you treat them.
  • Offers high-quality products and services
    • How to do this: The best way to let people know you’re selling great things is to ask customers to leave reviews on a third party review service. Why is it important that it’s a third-party? Because they act like an unbiased representative going between you, the seller, and them, the customers.
  • Listens to customers
    • How to do this: If you’re in the business of selling online, the best way to show you care about your customers is to actively respond to customer reviews. If the review is positive, thanking someone for being a customer is all you need to do. If it’s negative, publically addressing the issue will help show potential customers that you’re proactive and available, not distant.

Wrapping up

While trust may be on the decline globally, taking the steps to prove that you’re trustworthy may be just the things you need to do to stand out. If you’re interested in the full results of the survey, check them out here.