I conducted a very informal and non-scientific poll. I asked a number of Facebook groups the question: 

"What makes you trust one company over another?"

Some of the answers were as you would expect. Some less so. Let's have a look!

Word of Mouth / Recommendations

This was by far the most common answer, and these comments also got the most likes from other users.

It makes sense. Recommendations and advice from people we know and trust is probably the best indicator of a company's ability to deliver satisfaction. 

  • "Recommendation from a friend"
  • "If it's a new business, I usually trust it because it's been recommended to me"
  • "Recommendations on quality over price"


This was the second most common answer, with plenty of responses like these.  

  • "Reviews"
  • "Reputation and reviews"
  • "Reviews, communications"

This came second, by the criterion of mentioning the word "review" directly. 

But I think it's important to note that when we look at other indicators such as "standard of customer service" or "how they deal with problems", we may well look at reviews to judge these factors too.

Yet the reliability of online reviews is questionable at best.  The system is inherently flawed - skewed toward older companies, those with good PR skills, and tech savvy business owners.  Platforms like Trustpilot earn their revenue directly from business owners and are comically easy to game


I was surprised (though perhaps I shouldn't have been) at the number of responses such as: 

  • Gut feeling
  • Instinct
  • First impression
  • Speaking to the person
  • "I trust my gut.  Unless I focus on something with my head, my gut is never wrong"

Overall, about 20%  of respondents relied on their instinct to some extent.  But is "gut instinct" reliable?  See our article on Establishing Credibility for more info. 

Customer Service

This came up frequently, but it's quite a generic term. I'd quite like to do a follow up study on the specific factors people use when judging this.

  • "How good their customer services / after sales care is"
  • "How long they've been in business and customer service"
  • "When they add a personal touch or something that makes your experience easier"

Straight Talkin'

Honesty, reliability and no hard-selling were another common theme.

  • "Reviews, communications, being to the point and not forcing a product on you that doesn't fit your needs"
  • "Do they actually do what they say they will, when they say they will?"
  • "They give a straight answer when I ask them a question"
  • "Honesty and reliability"

Proof of Work 

Considering that this is probably a more reliable indicator than reviews (which came second), I'm surprised that only a couple of respondents mentioned this: 

  • "People, proof, reputation"
  • "Examples of their past work"
  • "Stuff that they've posted / published that shows their knowledge and expertise"

Other Answers

Some of the outlier answers were interesting and practical: 

  • "Quality of website"
  • "Ability to produce documentation when asked"
  • "Feeling valued"
  • "I want a shop I could go back to if something wasn't right"
  • "I want the option to pay by PayPal"
  • "Their ethical approach and their communication"
  • "How well their staff are treated"
  • "It's somewhere I've had a positive experience in the past and feel confident using that business again"

A couple of comments raised the issues noted in our previous article Building Credibility:

  • "People generally gravitate towards businesses they’ve been used to seeing for a while - popping up on social media, printed advertising etc are a powerful thing. Subconsciously people resonate with branding and your business message."
  • "Stuff that they've posted/published that shows their knowledge and expertise"

One very particularly practical response was: 

  • "In general terms I would test them out in a relatively risk free way first - so something not important, where it's not expensive"

One respondent differentiated between small and large companies: 

  • "Depends on size. Smaller / sole person business - recommendation and gut feel. Larger we have a due dil process which can be adjusted but can go right through finances to employment and to their environmental and anti slavery policies"

And of course there were a couple of cynical responses too! 

  • "They are all as bad as each other. So eeny meeny miny moe."
  • "I find it hard to trust any of them because we’ve had some that have been downright untrustworthy"

“That's a wrap!“

My name is Martin and I've been your host for this article.

I am by no means a strong writer, but I hope you found it of value.

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