When Trust Goes,
 So Do Customers

by M. Booth & Associates/Harris Interactive

WHEN CONSUMERS� TRUST IN A COMPANY OR PRODUCT IS BROKEN, they take dramatic and decisive action, from boycotting products to writing letters, according to the Booth-Harris Trust Monitor, a new study on consumer trust, released in June.
   The overwhelming majority of consumers (82%) say they have stopped using a company�s products when trust is broken, the study revealed. In the last year, of those who say their trust in specific companies has decreased, many say they have stopped buying those company�s products and services. They are: Firestone (58%), Nike (46%), AT&T;, (37%), Exxon/ Mobil (32%), and United Airlines (32%). Microsoft (16%) and others fared better.
   The study � commissioned by M. Booth & Associates and conducted by Harris Interactive � captures the volatile relationship consumers have with a company, its products and services. It analyzes dimensions of consumer trust, industries and corporations trusted most and what consumers do when trust is broken.
   A high percentage of consumers, who said their trust in specific companies had diminished, refused to buy the company�s products and services (59%), bought competitive products and services (46%), told family and friends not to buy the company�s products and services (25%) and wrote a letter to the company expressing their dissatisfaction (15%)
   Of all the factors affecting trust, consumers (84%) say they get most fed up when experiencing poor customer service and show it by either refusing to purchase or by boycotting a company�s products. Conversely, 93% of consumers say they are more likely to trust a company whose customer service department or website is responsive.
   Consumers experiment with new products (69%), especially if promoted by a catchy advertising campaign (58%) and attractive packaging (40%). As sources of information, family and friends (88%) are thought to be the most reliable, followed by consumer groups and reports (72%). Media rank third � print (52%), television (47%) and radio (46%) � followed by advertising (33%), direct mail (28%) and e-mail (21%).
   Harris Interactive conducted the survey online from March 12-20, 2001 using a national sample of 1,252 adults ages 18 and over.
   Editor�s Note: Although this study was conducted on consumers, it reinforces what we in the bankcard industry already know. Merchants are our consumers � certainly a key factor in merchant attrition is lack of trust. The key to improving trust and keeping merchants? It�s not offering lower discount rates and cheaper equipment � although today�s sophisticated merchants are more savvy about prices as well � the key is service. Improving customer service, adding value and making the merchant feel important can go a long way towards increasing their trust and staying put with you.

M. Booth & Associates (www.mbooth.com) is a public relations firm specializing in brand communications. Harris Interactive (www.harrisinteractive.com) is a global leader in online market research.