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5 Ways To Accidentally Lose Your Customer’s Trust Online

This post is republished from my original article on the Amex Open Forum website. It is part of “Small Business Friday” on this blog, where I share ideas and marketing techniques specifically to help small businesses stand out. To read more articles like this, visit the “Small Business Friday” category on this blog.

IStock_000003880118XSmall I have often written and spoken about building trust and the importance of doing so for small businesses as a way of promoting your products and services. There are certainly best practices when it comes to building trust online that are worth following – but recently I had a conversation that reminded me of how easy it is to lose trust online as well. The problem is sometimes that you can do everything right, but it is one or two choices that you make online which undermine your efforts and cause everything that you do right to fall on deaf ears. It’s akin to giving a great speech naked. No one remembers the speech – they only remember that you were naked while you gave it.


Assuming you haven’t had the chance to give a speech naked (I haven’t either, by the way), hopefully this situation will be unfamiliar to you. Online, however, we often are doing the equivalent without even realizing it. To help you avoid making those mistakes, here are 5 ways that businesses lose consumer trust all the time online. As you read them, think about how YOU can change what you are currently doing online to avoid losing trust inadvertently:


  1. Asking for too much information or the wrong information. It is tempting when it comes to putting a form on your website to ask for all the information you could possibly need. The only problem with that is that the more you ask for, the more questions you raise in a potential customers mind about how you might be using their personal information. Instead, why not try to reduce what you ask for as much as possible? Or at the very least, to get the most important information as a priority, which might include email address and name.
  2. Not listening to what consumers are asking for. If listening to your customers builds trust then it stands to reason that the opposite is likely true. Unfortunately there are many ways to not listen to your customers online. Allowing comments without responding to them is one way. Another is have a website that is difficult to navigate without paying attention to what people are actually doing on it. The solution to either of these problems is relatively simple … engage your customers by responding to them and actively solicit their feedback on anything you are doing online and actually do something to act on that feedback.
  3. Speaking just as a company and not as an individual. A general rule of thumb when it comes to being authentic online is that the more individual personality you can share with your customers, the more authentic you will be able to act as a result. Trying to maintain a corporate voice only is a common mistake because may small business owners believe that speaking like a faceless company will help them appear big and professional. The problem is that you are avoiding one of your biggest potential advantages … creating a personal relationship with your customers. Instead of hiding your voice, learn to actively use it to give people a direct connection to your business. The end result will be more loyal customers and a deeper insight into your customers because you have a much stronger relationship with them.
  4. Appearing too good to be true. Promising a miracle cure or something that seems like the perfect offer is a tempting thing to try and do to drive interest from consumers and traffic to your site. Doing so also undermines the credibility of your organization, though, because people have a much higher radar for detecting outsized claims that we sometimes think. The end result of trying to overpromise isn’t consumer interest, it is skepticism.  It is better to stay more real with what you promise to do and be as transparent as you can about what you don’t do. Nothing can build more credibility than being open about your shortcomings as well as being realistic about your strong points.
  5. Using too many “cookie cutter” online elements. Let’s face it, there are tons of ways to create a free website these days. From launching a blog to creating an entire corporate website, you can fairly easily take a template and put a website up in a matter of hours. Chances are, you don’t have a website like this for your business … but there are elements of this type of business that you still might be using. For example, if you are integrating Google keyword ads on your site to try and make some extra money, or using a recognizable template … you might accidentally be sending the message to your customers that you don’t care to invest real effort in having a professional site. As a general rule, if you are selling some kind of product or service, skip the online ads and try to make your site as customized as possible.

7 thoughts on “5 Ways To Accidentally Lose Your Customer’s Trust Online”

  1. Rohit,

    While I like your list as a whole, I think #2 Not listening to what consumers are asking for, really resonates with me. It is a constant frustration for me when marketers ask for feedback and then they’re unable to do anything with the information they have received from the customer. I don’t mean the one-off “I’m having an issue” customer feedback, which is also important, I mean when patterns and trends are revealed by customer feedback but aren’t addressed. No company can fix every issue but they can address them all.

    Thanks for a great blog and a great post.

    Heather | @heatherjstrout

  2. You’ve “hit the nail on the head“ with this post. I find all 5 points to be valid. If more business owners only abided by them, the world wide web would be a better place to surf.

    Your first point about asking too much or wrong information is one I know has steered me away from many merchants. I’d rather pay more elsewhere than let my information fall into what may be the wrong hands.

    And your third point about creating a personal relationship with your customers seems to be a lost art these days. With technology-based communication relying more and more on abbreviated text messages, emails and social networking sites, we seem to have lost the knack for forming these more personal experiences that used to bring the customer coming back time and time again.

    Thank you for sharing your insights.

  3. I completely agree. There was a hosting company I was considering in the past and it was just cluttered with adsense and it kind of lost credibility in my eyes. With your points, it is clear to understand a site that is making every effort to obtain a buck rather than actually offering a worthwhile and helpful product that could sell itself. Keeping true to your personality also seems to offer a unique advantage of individuality amidst all of the millions of sites out there.

  4. I also completely agree. Appearing big and professional is one that I hope a lot of people do read and it resonates with them. From both the customer as well as a business. When we are looking to hire somone or do business with someone, generally people feel more comfortable with a bigger company. Providing an email address and a contact form go part of the way towards redressing the situation but you must reply promptly.

  5. very true!
    Costumer retention is everything for a business to grow..
    very nice analysis is been conducted in highlighting the mistakes done by the business owners.specially no.2 costumers feedback is a great tool that assists in strategic planning phase and should be valued and taken as room to bring positive change and flexibility into a system…
    nice work..

  6. Rohit.

    Good riff as always, and some good comments from other readers too.

    I would alike to suggest a sixth point as well. Which is promising something on your website, which your company can’t deliver on in real life. Often consumers search for a product online, find a company that sells it, but when phoning, are asked put on hold for an hour; when ordering the product is not available for weeks or months; or perhaps worse, the actual service that staff promise when you visit the shop or call, is below that promised on the website.

    Lars Nielsen


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In addition to Non-Obvious Thinking, Rohit is the author of 10 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

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