business-1049272_960_720Every year, global communication marketing firm Edelman puts out a report they title “The Trust Barometer”, illuminating levels of consumer and public trust in the face of industries and governments across the world. 2015’s Trust Barometer saw all-time lows, which is bad news for business–but 2016’s Trust Barometer looks much more promising. There are three things that businesses should know if they want to keep trending toward consumer trust.

Not All Press is Good Press

To understand why people have waning trust in business leaders the world over, one need look no further than the daily headlines. In mid-2015 it was Hillary Clinton’s email servers and the Volkswagen scandal, while more recently you see headlines involving bribery and the oil industry and just days later, evidence of world leaders laundering money. The reason that these headlines sting the average consumer so much is that they’ve given their money and goodwill to these giants, only to have them stomped on. These “leaders” seem to be putting their own interests before those of their people, making them wonder why they should ever follow them in the first place.

Recurring headlines like these trample whatever trust consumers might have had for other business, leading even the best of brands and leaders to be lumped in with the rest of the rabble–the product of “guilt by association”. As such, businesses with true integrity need to separate themselves from the crowd. The burden of proving trustworthiness is now on the business-owner, as a profit-at-all-costs mentality inherent in world capitalism has left a bad taste in many consumer’s mouths. So how does a business cultivate a consumer’s trust?

Always Deliver On Your Promises

A good, real-world example of how a business’s trust-relationship is currently playing out will be to watch how the Marriott-Starwood merger affects the company’s most devoted customers. The frequent travelers under the current Starwood program have built up a relationship with the brand, with the author Mark Orlowski stating:

“As a loyal Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Platinum member for the past three years, I am concerned about both the value of my hard-earned Starwood points, as well as the fate of the benefits. Earning Platinum status requires 25 stays and/or 50 nights per calendar year. I’ve spent more than 125 nights at Starwood hotels (for work and for vacations) since I first became a Starwood member in 2010.”

That type of brand loyalty would be devastating for a company to lose. Marriott adopting Starwood’s business means that it’s also adopting Starwood’s promises as well–and if the former continues to do right by the latter’s original customers, Orlowski will never have to worry about losing trust in his new brand. Minor tweaks aside, the important things remain the same and it’ll be like nothing changed in the first place.

If You Win the Millennials, You Will Win the Rest

One of the most important things to understand is that Millennials are now basically running the show, and who they do and don’t trust is driving the new economy. Air BnB, Uber, Yelp–basically all of these companies have seen a massive rise in business because Millennials are able to use rating systems to display how much they trust any given contractor or company. As Bernie Sanders would say, “this is ‘uge”.

Millennials are unique as a generation because they’ve basically raised each other. While mom and dad were at work, they were either at school with each other or on the internet with each other. The effect is that while trust in industries and businesses have fallen to an all-time low, trust in the “Millennial Collective” has grown. The point is that if you can win the trust of Millennials by aligning yourself with their values, you’ll win the trust of the largest market share as well as the biggest generation yet.

In the End…

Trust your gut. It sounds cliche to a degree, but if it feels wrong and it feels like you might potentially break the trust of your entire client-base… well, maybe you shouldn’t do it then! It’s hard to define, sometimes, what is good, bad, and grey-area in business, but it’s almost immediately recognizable when trust is broken. Put yourself in your client’s or your follower’s shoes, and if the majority of your actions doesn’t help or put them first, you’re doing something wrong. Always remember: it is a company’s social responsibility to be trustworthy–make sure yours is.

Images used with permission via Westin and Pixabay