BBB Reports Americans’ Trust in Business Has Dropped in 13 of 15 Industries Examined

A new survey released today by Better Business Bureau and Gallup shows that consumer trust in businesses is on the decline. According to the BBB/Gallup Trust in Business Survey, consumer trust fell in 13 of the 15 industries measured since the last time the survey was conducted in September of 2007. While US consumers have the least amount of trust in auto dealers and real estate brokers, trust in the banking and financial industry has taken a severe hit.

Arlington, VA, August 27, 2008 --( Better Business Bureau announced findings from its second BBB/Gallup Trust in Business Index survey, noting American consumers say in a seven-month period their trust in businesses has fallen in 13 of 15 industries measured, with an overall composite Index decline in consumer trust of 14 percent. And nearly half (47 percent) of those surveyed say they have only “some, very little or no trust at all” in companies they do business with in everyday life.

The survey and Index, which measure consumer trust in businesses that they regularly deal with, were commissioned by BBB and conducted by Gallup. Based on its findings BBB will organize a business forum, ultimately geared toward reversing the current downward trend in trust between consumers and businesses. The BBB Forum will bring together a broad cross-section of senior leadership from across industries examined in its survey, including representation from small and medium enterprises, as well as multinational corporations doing business in North America.

"It is simply shocking that only 33 percent or less of Americans reports having a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot of trust’ in 11 of 15 industries measured in the survey,” said Steve Cole, president and CEO, Council of Better Business Bureaus. “And these trust levels are 14 percent less than they were last fall when we started taking these measurements. This trend should be a call to action for businesses, especially in an ailing economy—the link between consumer trust and profitability is well established.”

The first BBB/Gallup Trust in Business survey was conducted in September 2007; the second in April 2008. Consumers were asked to indicate their degree of trust in businesses using six categories: A Great Deal of Trust, Quite a Lot of Trust, Some Trust, Very Little Trust, No Trust or Don’t Know.

From the first to second survey, nine industries had a 10 percent or more drop in the combined “A Great Deal of Trust” and “Quite a Lot a lot of Trust” grouping, including:

Auto Dealers : -19 percent
Real Estate Brokers: -19 percent
Department Stores: -16 percent
Gas Stations: -15 percent

Another nine industries experienced a greater than 10 percent increase in the combined “Very Little Trust” and “No Trust” grouping, including:

Home Improvement Stores: +33 percent
Banks, financial institutions and stock brokers: +30 percent
Department Stores: +27 percent
Gas Stations: +27 percent

Department Stores and Gas Stations ranked in the top four in both the “Most Trusted” (dropped) and “Least Trusted” (gained) groupings. And only the Banks, Financial Institutions and Stock Brokers segment saw a greater than five percent change in the actual percentage of consumer responses in both the “Most Trusted” (dropped) and “Least Trusted” (gained) groupings.

“The decline in consumer trust can have really negative consequences for businesses, but interestingly, it presents a clear opportunity for competitive advantage for businesses that embrace consumer demand for trust in the marketplace.” added Cole.

When asked what factors affect their trust in businesses, 77 percent of consumers cited increasing prices of food, healthcare and energy as having major negative impacts. Seventy-seven percent also said the actions of our nation’s most important companies affect the trust they have in businesses they deal with every day.

When asked what would strengthen their trust in businesses surveyed, 86 percent of respondents said it would be “very” or “somewhat” helpful for businesses to allow credible third-party assessment of their performance. In contrast, only 58 percent said having government more actively involved in regulating performance would be “very” or “somewhat” helpful.

Demographic data shows consumers with no college education drove down trust levels in seven of 15 industries. As for gender, women specifically cited declining trust in Home Improvement and Department Stores, whereas men noted low degrees of trust in Pharmacies and Drug Stores, and Banks, Financial Institutions and Stock Brokers.

About the Survey Methodology
These findings are part of the ongoing BBB/Gallup Trust in Business survey. Gallup fielded the survey March 26 to April 20, 2008. The sampling included 1,003 respondents, 18 and older, randomly selected from across the U.S. The overall sampling error in the results is plus or minus three percentage points. For findings based on subgroups within the overall population, the margin of sampling error would be greater.

About BBB
BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring nearly 4 million local and national businesses and charities.

About Gallup
For more than 60 years, the Gallup Organization has been a recognized leader in the measurement and analysis of people’s attitudes, opinions and behavior. While best known for the Gallup Poll, founded in 1935, Gallup’s current activities consist largely of providing marketing and management research, advisory services and education to the world’s largest corporations and institutions.

Council of Better Business Bureaus
Alison Preszler