Increasing Customer Trust: How Two Small Additions Can Make a Huge Difference

Daniel Offer is involved in the Facebook messaging project Chit Chat for Facebook. Chit Chat is a  Facebook chat program that let’s people login to Facebook Chat from their desktops.

People like to feel that they are dealing with real people. You go into a store and interact with store staff – it may not always be a pleasant experience but this sort of business transaction has been the norm for many years and people have become comfortable with it. Online transactions, and business, are now becoming socially acceptable, but there is still a feeling of impersonality that many people still feel uncomfortable with.

There is something about dealing with an actual physical person that makes people more likely to commit to a sale. Yes, sales staff can be devious and tricky, but you can accept their imperfections because they are real people with real personalities. It’s easier to form an opinion, whether good or bad, if you are dealing with an actual person.

The faceless aspect of online business can be detrimental to customer relations and is the reason why many people still refuse to purchase anything online. So how can a business, or marketer, inject a human element into their practice and persuade consumers that there really is a trustworthy person at the other end of that internet connection?

Two Simple Methods That Add a Human Element into Online Sales

1. Show Them You Are Real
People want to see that they are dealing with a real person. It does not matter if they actually believe that the person they are seeing is really the person they will be buying products from – it is purely psychological. It’s like a dating website – members expect that some people will use a fake picture but they still prefer to see a picture over a ‘No Image Has Been Added’ icon. It is the illusion of speaking to a ‘real’ person that is the attraction – not the authenticity of the actual image.

By placing a picture of yourself, your sales team, or your store and its contents on a website, a consumer will get the impression that they are dealing with real people and a real store. Even a simple headshot offers the customer the feeling that someone is actually present at the end of that email address, or order form.

It makes no odds if that person is real, or if the picture has been purchased from some stock photo site. People need to feel that they are dealing with someone and they want to see an image so they can visualize that same person pitching the sales banter, taking their order and replying to their emails.

A simple picture will encourage consumer trust and can add a semblance of reality to any online business. Faceless websites are impersonal and people irrationally assume that if no-one is at the other end, there must be a reason why no-one is willing to show their face. Customers need the illusion of human interaction and if they feel neglected they will be unlikely to place any confidence in that business.

2. If You Mean it, Sign it
If somebody sells you a product they sign the paperwork. When you receive a letter through the mail it has a signature at the bottom. A signature says, “I stand by what I have written, my word is my bond”. A signature is the written equivalent of a good firm handshake and instils confidence.

Again, it is an irrational belief, but the use of signatures is an age old tradition and signifies that the person signing their name is honestly stating what they have written is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Of course, there is no reason to believe this, but people do and a document with a signature is valued above one that is signature bereft.

The personal moniker does not even have to be handwritten. People are used to electronic signatures nowadays: they are on bank letters, emails and nearly every form of correspondence from utility companies. It is not the impression of real ink that inspires trust and confidence – it is the appearance of a real signature.

Placing a digital signature at the bottom of a mission statement, sales letter, or product review, tells a customer that this was written by a real person and that person is willing to sign to say that what they just stated was true. Whether it was true is not the point, as with the example of the headshot, it is the impression of reality and personalization that is of real importance.

If a business, or marketer, wants to convince a prospective customer that they are believable, honest and above board, they need to include a signature on their web copy. The signature can be real and scanned from an actual example, or it can be falsely created using free software found online – the trust it creates does not stem from authenticity, it comes from appearance.

If you want to be believed, and taken seriously, stamp your mark on your work and let the customer feel that what they have just read has been written by an actual person.

In online marketing appearance is everything. People are still sceptical about purchasing online and with so many shady online traders they have every reason to be distrustful. If a business can offer the illusion that they are real and right there at the other end of that internet connection, they will benefit from greater customer confidence, improved trust and a real increase in real sales.

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  • Dave Tomsen

    Good tips Daniel. #1 is especially important these days.

    • Dave – thanks for commenting and glad you enjoyed Daniel's post.

  • Good article, but with the rise of identity theft these days; I thinking sharing our signature with the world is NOT a good idea!