For Jones, an important component of building consumer trust is showing transparency as a part of all levels of an organization.
“It’s critical to build a consensus for transparency from the top down,” she says. “For example, an executive can be transparent when addressing recall issues with the public on social media or the company blog.”
Trust can also be built with support from outside your company, reminds Prof. Jadeja, who noted that products bearing third-party verification seals are perceived as higher-quality products, particularly by consumers in European countries.
“There are several Global Food Safety Initiative-benchmarked food-safety and quality schemes that allow food processors to use their logos on food packaging (for example, SQF Quality Shield) if processors meet the stringent food safety and quality requirement established by the schemes,” says Prof. Jadeja.
The two areas that consumers value third-party verification most highly, says Arnot, are in the attestations of the treatment of animals and in food safety. “There’s a higher value of third-party verification there than any of the other areas we tested. When it comes to food safety and animal care, that’s where consumers really look for third-party verification and use that as a barometer of whether this is a company they can trust. Once again, you can’t do transparency without trust.”
The last part of the trust equation, Arnot says, is to trust customers to understand your business and its intentions. Shifting to a more transparent way of functioning is a long process with a steep learning curve. But, he says, if you’re frank with your client base about what you’re doing and why, they will understand. Let them know that what you’re undertaking will be ongoing and as a result you may not get it right every time, but regardless of whether you make mistakes, you’re nonetheless genuinely committed to the task of transparency—and let your customers know that you’re willing to talk with them directly about it if they have any questions.
“People will give you the benefit of the doubt if you help them understand that it’s a process, it’s not something where you turn a switch and today you’re transparent even if yesterday you weren’t,” he says. “You have to get buy-in from the organization, you have to establish your values, talk about what you’re going to communicate, and then make sure your consumers understand that you’re on a journey with them, and if they’d like more information, they should let you know.”
Staniforth is a Montreal-based freelance journalist. Reach him at email@example.com