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July 6, 2015

The Human Factor: Creating Trust Between Companies and Their Customers

Image courtesy of (Ambro) / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When people look for new restaurants to try, where do they look?  When they want to try a new salon, who do they ask?  When they decide they are really going to give skydiving a try, how do they decide which sky diving company is best? The answer? They ask people they trust.

Everyone peruses the multitudes of ads, websites, flyers, etc. that companies put out to draw customers in, but after the 10th, 20th, 100th one, all those ads start to blur together.  Every toothpaste is advertised as “No. 1 dentist recommended!”  Every Italian restaurant claims to have “the best pasta the world has ever tasted!”  The nature of advertisements is to make their product look like the best.  Because of this, people do not trust companies.  To people, companies are just profit-generating machines.  Machines are not going to tell you the truth about their business.  Machines are going to do anything to efficiently and effectively achieve profit.

People do not want to deal with companies.  People want to deal with people. So how do people choose which company to actually trust their money with?  They ask for advice.  In times before the Internet, people relied mostly on the trusted words of their friends and family for advice.  Now that the Internet is common, however, more people are turning to review sites such as Yelp.  The key is trust.  People need to feel like they can trust what is said about a company. They use Yelp because, even though it is a company, the site shows average people’s comments, with pictures and names who are telling you the good, the bad, and the ugly, of companies in all fields.  Yelp guarantees blocking any user that accepts payment for leaving reviews.  This creates a level of trust, a personal relationship between the person reading the reviews and the person leaving them.

According to Digital Fusion Business Services of Laguna Beach, California, the best way for a company to improve its business reputation and ability to draw in clients is to designate a spokesperson.  In this way, potential customers will have a person they can connect with and trust rather than another profit-churning machine.  Most online reputation management efforts should focus on bolstering the reputation of this figurehead and protecting that reputation (as well as the corporate name’s reputation).

Social media efforts should revolve around the chosen representative.  To improve search engine optimization, companies need to post regular updates.  When they have a spokesman for their social media, people can comfortably assume that person is in charge of all the updates.  People can feel more comfortable asking questions and giving praise, because they have someone to address their comments to.  When they get a response, it becomes a conversation and that builds a relationship and trust.  It does not matter if there is actually only one person writing responses, or lots of people, as long as it appears to come from the same person (or a few people in charge of various divisions within the same company). Make it personal!

When companies try to handle social media under their company name, the experience becomes much less personal.  Instead of generating trust with their clients, it can often create distrust because people assume the responses are being fielded by inexperienced interns.  People will be more hesitant to put out their questions, comments, and concerns, because they will not feel there is much chance of a response.  When people cannot easily address their concerns to a company, they will take their frustrations elsewhere, such as the aforementioned Yelp.  Negative reviews do way more damage to a company’s online reputation than positive ones boost their reputation, so being able to communicate with customers before they take out their anger elsewhere is key.

Companies should make sure their designated spokesperson has an online presence across a broad span of social media including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Google+ (YouTube too for visual communication).  The more sites a company has, the better chance people will be able to find them.

To make managing all of these social media outlets easier, companies should start a WordPress site (wordpress.com) where they can use the “shared” feature in it to link to most of their social media sites.  That way when they add an update or post to their WordPress site, it will automatically be posted on each of their other connected social media sites.

To conclude, make customers feel that they are being heard by real people within firms who have the interest and power to deal with their issues, frustrations and concerns.


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Koz Khosravani of Digital Fusion Business Services, is an Internet expert, a computer information systems consultant, an information technology and educational technology lecturer, and teaching fellow at various colleges and universities, including Harvard University, UC-Irvine, UC-San Diego, and UCLA Extension Schools.

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