In the age of online fakery, can brands still inspire trust and communicate with integrity? David Pattman, Managing Director CX Services at Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group looks at the impact of diminishing online confidence on the future of CX.

With our screens full of references to fake news, bogus social media profiles and high profile data mining scandals hitting Facebook and Google, it’s hard not to assume that trust in online channels is plummeting. Facebook alone suspended over 1.3 billion fake accounts in 2018 and, shockingly, by their own admission an estimated 5% of remaining accounts are fake.

But they are not alone, as according to the Washington Post Twitter was reported to have shut down up to 70 million fake and suspicious accounts between May and June of 2018.

So how can brands counter this malicious activity eating away at ‘digital trust’ as a whole? The first step in answering that question is defining the term, as research specialists, Gartner has done below:

“Digital trust underpins every digital interaction by measuring and quantifying the expectation that an entity is who or what it claims to be and that it will behave in an expected manner. Source: www.Gartner.com

They offer further advice that “CIOs who lead digital business initiatives need to learn how digital trust differs from traditional trust models.”

The accepted theory of trust-based marketing, as originated by Dr Glen Urban former dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management focuses on clear dialogue, unbiased information and customer advocacy techniques to create a loyal customer base. Interestingly, digital trust seems to work under different parameters as Southampton University discovered as far back as 2011.

They undertook a unique study which identified the key factors in rating trust in websites, which were identified as (in order); Easy to find information, Easy to read, Coherent and Simple. They clearly linked trust to ease in online journeys, something that is core to producing effective CX.

As Roger Dooley, author and international keynote speaker on influence, highlights:

“Topics like recommendations, testimonials, reviews, and accreditations were also mentioned, along with other factors. But, the preponderance of references to a smooth and easy experience are quite remarkable.” Source: Neuroscience Marketing

Since then customer advocacy has become increasingly prevalent, instant and reactive, with crowd-sourcing review specialists G2, highlighting that 94% of customers read online reviews and Digital Marketing Group Fan and Fuel reporting that an incredible 97% of us factor customer reviews into our buying decisions.

                                The majority of customers read online reviews before buying

Photo Credit: rupixen/Unsplash

We can see that traditional word of mouth has been almost entirely replaced by search engines and review sites, so maintaining a positive reputation around customer service has become a crucial factor for brand success.

Interestingly, the way brands deal with reviews is another factor in establishing trust and according to 2018 research, over half of customers expect brands to reply to online reviews within 7 days.

It is my opinion that the direct approach is best, brands should be proactive in addressing customer feedback head-on. Companies should be there to listen and respond wherever the customer voice is active. Leaving a vacuum is bad for business as, according to Chatmeter, not replying online risks increasing customer attrition by up to 15%

To conclude, brands can take steps to counter falling digital trust by creating easy and smooth customer journeys, maintaining exemplary online customer service and delivering a fast response via social channels – which are key areas where we offer support and advice to our client portfolio.

And taking these steps are crucial for the bottom line, as Roger Dooley, author and international keynote speaker on influencing, puts it:

“Without “digital trust,” you won’t get their email, and you certainly won’t get their money.”

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