SurveyMonkey Reveals New Research to Help Businesses Understand Consumer Perceptions on Trust

Human Relationships Win When it Comes to Building Trust & Influencing Purchase Decisions

SurveyMonkey, a leading global survey software company, released data exploring the relationship between consumers and trust: how perceptions of trust influence purchase decisions, the role Artificial Intelligence plays in these perceptions, and how human relationships can ultimately make or break brands. SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie unveiled the data in a keynote at Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

“Today’s technology platforms enable businesses to scale faster than ever and connect with customers more frequently and on a more personal level. However, too often businesses overshoot—too much outreach that is unwanted and irrelevant hurts the relationship. Businesses that fail to establish trust — the foundation of any relationship — will lose to businesses who can,” said SurveyMonkey CEO, Zander Lurie. “You need trust to win customers, and you need to build on that trust to keep them. Our research shows the key to establishing this kind of trust begins by listening to your customers’ voices and opinions, and then acting on those insights.”

Trust — and lack thereof — plays a major role in consumers’ purchasing decisions.

Trust plays a role for 92% of Americans, 89% of UK residents, and 95% of Canadians when making a big purchase. Consumers are especially unwilling to risk money with a new brand in certain high-stakes categories like medical care or financial services. While in all of the three markets surveyed consumers were more open to buying low-stake items like shoes or electronics from startups, they would still prefer to purchase from established brands in all categories tested.

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Percentage of people who would prefer to buy from an established brand
Financial Services Medical Care Consumer
Low-Stake Items
(i.e. Shoes)
United States 91% 92% 81% 64%
United Kingdom 88% 91% 87% 64%
Canada 91% 90% 80% 71%

Whether a brand is well-established or a small startup, having online presence is vital for business and helps build trust with potential customers. Millennials have even less trust than older consumers (age 35+) for companies with no online presence — 31% of millennials don’t trust companies without a website at all versus 24% of non-millennials. Yet, according to research conducted by SurveyMonkey and CNBC last year, nearly half (45%) of small businesses still don’t have a website; and an even smaller portion — about one third (36%) — use their website to communicate company news.

People feel they can’t trust a brand with no online presence
Have no trust “at all” for a
brand without a website
Have no trust “at all” for a
brand without social media
United States 26% 12%
United Kingdom 17% 6%
Canada 16% 10%

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People trust their friends and family more than marketing.

While marketers spend money on advertising, celebrities, and influencers, consumers most trust recommendations from their personal networks. In fact, about half of consumers have never bought something because of an advertisement. Fewer than 1 in 10 individuals have ever purchased a product because of a celebrity endorsement, and only 13% have purchased because of an online influencer. Of all advertising mediums, TV is most effective, but friends and family are approximately twice as influential across the board.

Mediums that encouraged individuals to make big purchases
TV Facebook Ads Instagram Ads No ads have led to
a purchase
United States 33% 13% 7% 52%
United Kingdom 31% 15% 9% 49%
Canada 30% 16% 7% 51%
People that encouraged individuals to make big purchases
Friends or
Celebrities Online Influencers
United States 65% 7% 12%
United Kingdom 52% 9% 13%
Canada 64% 10% 13%

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Although friends are the most influential reference, when it comes to big ticket purchases, consumers prefer to look into it themselves. 61% of Americans, 54% of UK residents and 51% of Canadians would consider themselves ‘researchers’, while fewer than two in ten say they are ‘socializers’ who seek recommendations from friends.

Poor customer service and product experience are the biggest trust breakers.

In all countries surveyed, the biggest breakers of trust are a poor product or a poor customer service experience, particularly for American consumers. Americans are also more ‘sensitive’ across all categories: for example, an offensive ad can cause nearly half of Americans to lose trust in a brand, while fewer UK consumers (30%) and Canadians (35%) feel the same. In contrast with older consumers, many more millennials across the board would also lose trust due to lack of diversity in advertising.

“When we asked if lack of diversity in advertising would make people lose trust in a brand, we learned millennials cared a lot more about it than older generations,” said Lurie. “For example, 21% of American millennials 18-34 years old said this would influence their trust compared to just 10% of people over 35 years old. So, if you are planning a new advertising campaign and your main customer base is millennials, you better know this matters to 1 in 5 of them.”

What would make you lost trust in a company?
Poor Experience With The Product Poor Customer Service Experience Offensive Ads Leadership Scandal Security Breach
United States 81% 78% 46% 36% 49%
United Kingdom 73% 65% 30% 26% 44%
Canada 71% 70% 35% 28% 40%

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The best customer service is through humans, leveraging technology to do it at scale.

In all three countries, great customer service is closely tied with trust. Resolving problems to customers’ satisfaction and responding quickly are the most important elements of customer service. Six in ten Americans also said that “acting like a human being” was also important to good customer service, and nearly half of UK residents (48%) and Canadians (46%) agreed. This aligns with previous research conducted by SurveyMonkey for FORTUNE that found skepticism about the benefits of AI, with more people calling it “creepy” than “cool” (56% vs. 43%).

The most important elements of customer service
Resolving problems to the customers’ satisfaction Responding quickly Acting like a human being Having multiple ways to contact customer service Feeling like the customer service agent cares about you
United States 76% 73% 61% 54% 37%
United Kingdom 64% 64% 48% 44% 37%
Canada 68% 68% 46% 46% 37%
Top Brands for Customer Service
United States Amazon Apple Chick-fil-A Costco
United Kingdom Amazon John Lewis Apple Tesco
Canada Amazon Apple Walmart Costco
What makes Amazon’s customer service the best?
They try to solve problems They respond to issues quickly
United States 87% 90%
United Kingdom 75% 76%
Canada 86% 82%

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