When Vilk Varustus OÜ launched a new WooCommerce online store, its standard design included the integration of the Estonian E-Commerce Union (hereinafter referred to as the Union) trustmark in the footer. After careful consideration, we decided to develop our own “trustmark,” and below, we will explain the reasoning behind our decision.
TRUSTMARK as a guarantee
- According to the Union, the trustmark gives merchants “the opportunity to show visitors that they are dealing with a reliable, above-average, and successful store with a controlled sales process, and safer than competitors.”
- However, all the necessary conditions for obtaining the trustmark are more formal than substantive in nature. This is both good and bad. It’s good because it’s easy for interested parties to fulfill these conditions and for the supervisory authority to verify them. On the other hand, it’s bad because it creates a sense of assurance for both the merchant and the consumer, even though good service has never been about the business name’s location on the website or the presence of an SSL connection. It lies in details like product packaging, shipping speed, responsiveness to inquiries, advice, handling complaints, and returns.
- Can a trustmark based on the owner’s understanding of good service really guarantee anything? It may provide some assurance, but it would be even better if such a credit were given by the transaction participants themselves, not a third party. In this case, by the customers. And if we add technical parameters to such credit, the result is even better.
- The fact that there are companies from which the Union has revoked the trustmark shows that such a trustmark doesn’t offer any additional guarantees.
- When applying for the Union’s trustmark, it becomes clear that meeting the technical requirements is not enough. At first glance, the cost of the trustmark seems reasonable: “The Safe Shopping Site” trustmark’s license fee is 100 euros per year. However, upon closer examination, it appears that this is not the only expense. Only Union members can apply for the trustmark. Condition 8 states that the store must have “fully paid the Estonian E-Commerce Union’s annual membership fee and has no debts to the Union.” For a regular member, i.e., any size online store, the membership fee is 350€ per year! This means a 450€ annual cost and also implies that the primary criterion for awarding the trustmark is not the company’s service quality but its ability to pay the annual fee!
- However, it’s not about the 450 euros! For a company that aims to earn customers’ trust, the trustmark costs much more. For us too, providing excellent customer service and receiving hundreds of positive reviews have cost us hundreds and thousands of euros in e-development, packaging, shipping speed, and maintaining a local warehouse. While customer-centric approach is primarily an attitude, making it visible incurs tangible costs.
- As a small merchant, it was thought-provoking to see how the Union advertises itself on its website. For example, the board consists exclusively of representatives from well-known large (e-)companies. Is there something wrong with this? Certainly not if size is essential and has its purpose. However, service quality is not related to size; rather, the opposite. As a business grows, its customer-centric approach tends to fade away, and then only technical parameters such as “we have received your inquiry and will respond within 7 working days” remain, or sometimes customer service becomes inaccessible.
- The Union regularly organizes e-commerce-related conferences and other events where successful e-merchants or industry specialists come to the forefront. Certainly, among them, there are advocates and practitioners of good service, but recently, I personally encountered a partner and speaker from the Union whose behavior could sometimes be considered demeaning towards customers. This further reinforced the determination that belonging to the Union is not an honor; it’s a financial transaction, and there is something wrong with the essence of the trustmark chosen by the Union.
IN REALITY, what really matters is
- the level of service the customer experiences in the store, not whether the company running the store has “no tax debts and all tax declarations have been submitted.”
- what the customer says about the service received, not what the merchant says about it.
Because how much is the knowledge that the company has not received any complaints from the Consumer Protection worth when there are hundreds of ways to legitimately make the customer’s life uncomfortable? For a good merchant, valid laws are more of a guideline, meaning that the legal boundaries provided by the laws allow operating in the customer’s interest faster and more efficiently.
SAFE e-store has focused primarily on providing the best customer experience throughout its years of operation. For this purpose, we have invested resources and time, collected customer feedback, and can proudly say that we offer the best available service within our capabilities. We are always willing to listen to suggestions for improving service quality, and if we make mistakes, the customer does not have to wait for days for a solution.
The SAFE trustmark is based on real customer feedback!