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Building customer
trust online:
How to build trust
on your website

Author: Sue Poremba

Not so long ago, when customers visited your website, all they wanted was a seamless transaction and fast service. Now, however, as data breaches, ransomware and data privacy laws have gone mainstream, your customers care more than ever how you'll protect their personal information.

Because websites are necessary for businesses, you need to know how to build trust on your website. Once that is done, you need to know how to get customers to trust your website.

Building customer trust online: Setting up the foundation for trust

Trust is the most important thing in any relationship, including between business owner and customer. When you met your customers solely face to face, it was easier to build a relationship; you knew them, and they knew you.

Business is more anonymous now, and instead of your customer base coming from the neighborhood, they can be from all over the country or the world. They interact with you primarily through a website. Your job is to understand how to get customers to trust your website, so they return. That starts with getting them to trust you.

Research company Nielsen Norman Group developed a Pyramid of Trust to facilitate that need, explaining, "Establishing trust, whether with a stranger or with a website, is gradual: as the relationship progresses, skepticism is overcome, the comfort level increases, and new demands can be made. The relationship evolves through different stages of commitment, each built on top of the previous ones."

How to build trust on your website is done in small ways at first. One simple, early step is to create a secure URL with HTTPS. The first thing security-aware customers look for is the sign that shows their transaction is conducted securely on your end, and if you can't provide that, they might move on to someone who can.

Make sure your customers know you. Even if you can't do business in person, they should know who they are dealing with. Adding a "who we are" section to the website, with pictures of the leadership team, the company's history and a mission statement, lets customers know they aren't dealing with anonymous robots. And if your site does use chatbots, getting customers to a real person as quickly as possible when the bot can't provide a helpful answer helps you with building customer trust online.

How to get customers to trust your website

When doing business in person, many customers like small businesses—some examples include shopping in neighborhood stores, grabbing a coffee from the local café rather than the national chain, and hiring a contractor or an accountant through word-of-mouth recommendations. That comfort level doesn't translate very well to the internet, so customers focus on brands with which they are already familiar.

When looking at how to build trust on your website, consider the brands and vendors you work with and put the best ones on display. Customers return to certain brands out of experience, reputation and loyalty. If you are able to get those brands front and center to the customer, they'll likely dig deeper into your company's other offerings.

Transparency helps you with building customer trust online as well. Transparency goes hand-in-hand with honesty, so while you want to make sure you highlight things like positive press and testimonials from other customers, you'll also want to share some less-than-positive reviews and how you resolved the issue. Similarly, if your company had to deal with a cyber attack or downtime, a public response goes a long way in building customer trust online and with your company. Customers know not everything is perfect, so don't try to hide the imperfections.

You also build trust through connections. Adding a blog about products and services continues to share your story. Getting your name into publications through interviews or sponsored content puts your website in front of potential customers.

How to build trust on your website when it comes to security, privacy and personal data

As mentioned, customers are more aware than ever of the importance of security and privacy in their business transactions. Within an organization, security is a team sport; everyone is responsible for taking a security-first approach to their job duties and online activities. Customers should be included on that team.

From the website end, be transparent in the steps you take to meet all security and regulatory compliance standards. Let the customer know their order and payment transactions are secure with badges and certificates. Clearly explain how you use, and don’t use, the personal information your website collects and stores. Encourage customers to use multi-factor authentication when entering the website or prevent them from being able to save their passwords in your system. Regularly test the site for vulnerabilities, embedded malware or credential theft, and report that testing on the site.

Encourage customers to report anything that looks suspicious, and then take action. Customers are your front line and may experience problems with the website—trouble loading, unusual pop-ups, 404 errors—before you do. Listen to their concerns and complaints. One of the easiest ways to lose the trust of your customers is to tell them the problem is on their end. That tells them you aren't invested in simplifying the customer experience in your site design, so why should they trust you to manage their sensitive data?

There are many facets to learning how to build trust on your website and how to get customers to trust your website. Because your website is often their first introduction to your company, building a site that tells your customers you value their security, their privacy and their business is your first step in building customer trust online and creating a long-standing relationship.

Discover how effective customer experience design can help with building customer trust.