Last week the topic of trust was raised in a Harvard Business Review post titled, “What trust brings to Amazon, Zappos and USAA.” The author, Peter Merholz, described how being bold, and proactively trusting your customers, can contribute to a company’s online success.
The article was very well written, and the examples were thought provoking, but for me there was something missing. Beyond examples, what evidence exists that proactively trusting your customers can contribute to online success?
What Neuroscience has shown
At Claremont Graduate University, the neuroconomist Prof. Paul Zac has been studying the topic of trust for a number of years. Looking at the role of trust in macro and micro economics, his studies have begun to focus on the brain chemical oxytocin, and how it can influence trust.
In 2005, Zac published studies showing that when a person sends a trust signal to another person, it causes a release of oxytocin in their brain, which can induce a social obligation to reciprocate that trust. Put simply, his research showed that trust leads to trust, and it provides strong support for the idea of proactively trusting your customers.
What Morphological Research has shown
Morphological research has also been used to study the phenomenon of trust. In fact, in a recent study of 1000 North Americans, Concerto Marketing Group set out to uncover the benefits and drivers of trust in businesses and brands (link to the study here if you are interested).
Through our research we managed to uncover six equally correlated drivers of brand trust. Two of these drivers have particular relevance to this discussion; Relationship and Practical Value. In order for people to trust a brand, it needs to provide some sort of Relationship. Furthermore, in order for that Relationship to be strong, it must deliver some sort of Practical Value.
Based on these two drivers, our research would also support the idea of proactively trusting your customer. When Amazon gives a customer the power to provide product reviews, or when USAA lets a customer deposit checks by email, they are delivering Practical Value, strengthening their Relationship, and ultimately building brand trust.
Building Brand Trust Online
For many companies and consumers, the online environment can embody the best and worst of humanity. It can provide facts and friendship on the one hand; on the other hand it can harbor lies and fraud.
Extending proactive trust to your customers is a powerful way to cut through this mess and build a strong brand. In fact, it would seem that Peter Merholz was on to something in his recent post; being bold and proactively trusting your customers can contribute to a company’s online success.
Canadian Marketing Blog - Canadian Marketing Association by CMA on behalf of NIck Black