Trust in bedrock institutions – NGOs, business, media and the government – is declining worldwide, reveals Edelman in its latest annual Trust Barometer report, and business stands “on the brink of distrust.” In fact, just 37% of general population respondents around the world find CEOs to be credible, an all-time low. In such an environment, how can businesses build trust?
The survey asked respondents around the world to identify which of 31 dimensions – grouped into 10 categories – were most important to building their trust in a company. (Importance was measured as a top-2 box on a 9-point scale.)
Looking first at the overarching categories, the results suggest that attributes relating to integrity and engagement are most important, followed by those relating to products and citizenship.
The individual attributes deemed most important by the largest share of respondents are:
- Treats employees well (62%);
- Offers high-quality products or services (59%);
- Listens to customer needs and feedback (58%);
- Pays its fair share of taxes (56%);
- Has ethical business practices (56%);
- Takes responsible actions to address an issue or a crisis (55%);
- Has transparent and open business practices (55%);
- Places customers ahead of profits (55%);
- Communicates frequently and honestly on the state of its business (52%); and
- Works to protect and improve the environment (52%).
It’s worth highlighting some of the above attributes, as their importance has also appeared in other research.
- Offers high-quality products or service. Product quality has been shown to be the key determinant of brand loyalty and is considered by CMOs in the US to be the #1 priority for customers. Quality is also the most critical core attribute that brands should embody, according to consumers around the world.
- Takes responsible actions to address an issue or a crisis. Research surrounding data breaches indicates that consumers want timely acknowledgment of a breach and a guarantee to cover losses.
- Has transparent and open business practices. Along with quality and reliability, transparency is the only other core value that a majority of consumers worldwide feel that brands should embody. Other research reveals that consumers want transparency about how products are made and that authenticity is one of the top-rated brand attributes among Millennials.
- Places customers ahead of profits. A recent study from MarketingSherpa [download page] found that the most broadly cited experience among dissatisfied customers was the company not putting their needs and wants above its own business goals.
- Works to protect and improve the environment. The extent to which consumers – particularly young ones – consider corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been well-documented. Recent research, for example, indicates that 6 in 10 consumers globally feel it important to buy from socially responsible companies. Meanwhile, most Americans say that CSR affects their decisions about who to do business with at least once in a while.
Who Do Consumers Trust?
Returning to the Edelman study, one question arises: if consumers don’t trust CEOs, who do they trust?
Interestingly, peers are now as trusted as experts when consumers are forming opinions of companies. Some 60% would consider information they heard from a person like themselves to be very or extremely credible, on par with the proportion who would consider information from technical and academic experts to be credible.
Looking at various topics to be communicated – and changing the set of spokesperson options – the results demonstrate that employees are more trusted than senior executives and company CEOs in communicating all topics, including financial earnings, business practices and innovation efforts.
Media spokespeople were the least trusted to communicate each topic.
Finally, the study notes some interesting responses with regards to credibility of sources of information:
- 62% of general population respondents would be more likely to believe a company’s social media posts than its advertising (38%);
- 57% find spontaneous speakers to be more believable than rehearsed speakers (43%);
- 54% deem blunt and outspoken styles more believable than diplomatic and polite ones (46%); and
- 51% trust personal experience over data (49%).
About the Data: The results above are based on a survey of 32,200 general population respondents across 28 countries.