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    Perl Archive : TLC : Business : Seals of Approval
    Guide Search entire directory 

    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.

    Employees of TRUSTe work with you to create a written privacy policy for your site. Visitors can access this privacy policy by clicking on the TRUSTe seal.

    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


    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 page.


    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 " 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'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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