Trust in eCommerce, wireless service providers hits rock bottom

Trust isn’t doing well in the world today.  Perhaps it is our current political malaise, the ever-increasing threats to ecommerce on the Internet, complicated and oft-times ridiculous cell phone contracts or maybe everyone is just having a bad day, but U.S. consumers say they have less trust in the business world than they did just 12 months ago and prefer dealing with smaller firms as a result.

That’s the bottom line in a Better Business Bureau/Gallup Trust in Business Index survey out today. Of more than 1,200 consumers surveyed nationwide, less than half said they fully trusted businesses they dealt with everyday. Only eight percent said their trust had increased over the past year, compared to 18% who said their trust had faded, the survey found.

The online world has seen some of the worst trust erosion Only one in six American adult consumers (17 %) say they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in companies that only do business online, while 42 % say they have some trust; 22 % say they have very little trust, and 12 % say they have no trust at all.

As might be expected, younger consumers say they have more trust in online only companies than do older consumers with 23 % of consumers 18-34 years of age and 20 % of those 35-49 years old saying they have a great deal or a lot of trust in online only companies compared to 14 % of those aged 50-64 and only 6 % of those 65 years or older.

Business categories consumers trusted least are generally consistent with the volume of complaints the  BBB recorded from consumers last year, a record-breaking 1.2 million complaints spanning 3,900 business categories. Last year the BBB received more complaints about auto dealers (new and used) and cellular telephone service and suppliers than any other business categories, and the furniture retail and real estate categories were also significant complaint generators. High charges and fees were noted by 30 % of consumers as creating the most distrust, followed by poor service (27 %) and failure to meet promises (16 %).

By comparison, pharmacies and drug stores are most trusted by American adult consumers with 65 % saying they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in these types of businesses. Grocery stores and supermarkets came in second at 59 %, followed by banks, financial institutions and stock brokers (48 %), and home improvement stores (46 %).

“There are many contributing reasons for this bad news – recent toy recalls, the sub-prime mortgage and foreclosure crisis, well publicized ethics lapses and criminal violations, and a long period of what many experts see as declining customer service. But whatever the causes, if we care about the health and prosperity of our nation, we had better address trust issues immediately.” said Steven Cole, president and CEO, Council of Better Business Bureaus in a statement.

A couple of other findings:

·          The Index found that women are more trusting than men – with 52 % of women, to 45 % of men – saying they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in businesses they deal with regularly. And, older consumers are more trusting than their younger counterparts with more than 58 % of consumers ages 65 and over saying they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust versus 43 % under age 35.   

·          When it comes to the size of businesses and consumer trust, the survey uncovered that 67 % of consumers say they would prefer to do business with a small company rather than a large company in their everyday life when given a choice. Further, 73 % of consumers say they trust small companies more than large companies. And by nearly a two to one margin, consumers employed by large companies said they would prefer doing business in their everyday lives with small companies (59 %) than other large companies (31 %).  

The first  “BBB/Gallup Trust in Business Index” survey took place from August 22 to September 8, 2007. The sampling included 1,204 respondents, 18 and older, randomly selected from across the US, according to a BBB release. 

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.