Date Published: 2000-04-01
by Jennifer Johnson
One of the hot topics in e-commerce is trust. Specifically how to encourage trust in Internet consumers.
In my article "Inspiring Trust Online", I
explored various steps site owners could take when designing a site to lend an image of trustworthiness
to their online presence. Most of those items involve (you) attempting to convey the fact that you are
serious about doing business online and worthy of trust. While this is extremely important, I'd like
to discuss another component of building trust online: having *someone else* verify to visitors that you are
trustworthy and safe to do business with online.
Why is this important? Basically because everyone online who has a product or service to sell is
going to tell you the same thing: trust me...regardless of whether you can or not. In this light, the
need for an evaluation by an objective third party, or sometimes by someone who has dealt with the company
before, becomes apparent.
There are several services online - some free, some not - that will "objectively" assess your
credibility and allow visitors to your web site access to that information or other information relating to
your reliability and/or customer service. I would like to discuss four of those services here today.
The Better Business Bureau is a "real world" organization most people are familiar with. The
BBBOnline Reliability Program is basically the Internet equivalent. Actually, it would be more
accurate to say that it is the Internet counterpart of the real world BBB because you must be a member
of your local BBB in order to become a member of the BBBOnline.
Essentially, a company must meet certain standards and pay a fee (based on the number of employees)
in order to be allowed to display the BBBOnline seal. The seal links to a page from which your
company's "BBBOnline Participant Profile" can be accessed. This profile contains various bits of
information including verifying that your company has a satisfactory record with Better Business Bureaus
in regards to handling complaints.
Your company is also listed in the BBBOnline Reliability Program's search engine. Consumers can
locate your business through either a search for your business name or a keyword search.
TRUSTe also has an online seal program, but it deals with Web privacy issues.
In addition, your site must adhere to "established privacy principles and agree to comply with ongoing
TRUSTe oversight" and the TRUSTe resolution process.
The annual license fee depends on the annual revenue of your company. For companies with annual revenue
of under one million dollars, the fee for a one year license is $299.
You can access "the Wizard", however, and develop and download a privacy statement for your site free of
charge. If you don't pay the license fee, you aren't, of course, allowed to use the TRUSTe seal.
Public Eye has at least one thing going for it: it's completely free.
Another online seal program, Public Eye has two categories of merchant certification, Gold and Platinum.
Gold certified sites have been shopped by Public Eye's secret shoppers and have passed in terms of
customer service. These sites are rated by Public Eye.
Platinum merchants are sites that have met Public Eye standards and agree to be monitored 24/7. These
sites are rated by their customers and that information is publicly accessible; they are also listed in the
Public Eye search engine.
Another feature that might help assuage customers fears about online transactions is that consumers
who make a credit card purchase from Platinum sites are given extra protection against fraudulent use
of their credit card. For more details, visit
This is another "safe shopping certification"-type program. You are provided with a certain amount of
marketing research information gleaned from 2 surveys customers may elect to participate in.
Customers are given the opportunity to participate in a web-based survey via a link from your order
confirmation page. This survey basically deals with ease of placing an order, products, look of your web
site, etc. The second survey deals with how satisfied the customer was with the order/shipping/customer
service process. The customer is invited to participate in this survey via email.
Gold, "customer certified", merchants are allowed to use the "BizRate.com Live Medal" which links to
reports (updated weekly) on that merchant. Potential customers can see what kind of rating your business
has received from past customers.
There is no cost to join BizRate.com's certification program.
I believe any online merchant should consider joining one of these (or a similar) program. In my
opinion it lets your customer know that you're serious about doing business online and that your company is
trustworthy. On the Internet today, that's a valuable commodity.
Copyright © 1999-2000 Jennifer Johnson
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