Seven Steps To Build Instant Trust In The Sharing Economy

The sharing economy is the future, but only if businesses can establish trust between the suppliers and consumers of services.

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The sharing economy is the future, but only if businesses can establish trust between the suppliers and consumers of services.

The sharing economy is continuing to change the face of global business, with more consumers every day realising that there are huge cost savings and personal benefits to be made by renting or borrowing from someone they connect with online.

But for the industry to continue with its dramatic growth trajectory, the millions of people using these services need to remain happy, and to do that they need reassurance that the transactions and connections they are making – whether it’s a cab share, a house sit or a bike loan – are with people they can trust.

When I had the idea to create TrustedHousesitters in 2010, I sold my car and funded a trip around the world staying in people’s homes. I then personally signed them up to the site, so I knew every single one of our first few hundred members.

Five years on, we have a community of 300,000 people, with 20,000 new members joining each month. At this scale, making home visits to all of them is out of the question. So how can a growing digital sharing economy business like ours, and the hundreds launching every week, guarantee global trust?

With sharing economy rentals, there’s a contract of liability. But since no money is exchanged between our home owners and house sitters, trust is the sole commodity for our members, which is why we are continuously investing in industry-leading trust and safety features.

house sitting

People need to feel confident about who's in their house

As the need for trust becomes more instant, a traditional message exchange, profile check and Skype call aren’t always enough. Not when it comes to opening up your home or sharing possessions that have a value far greater than their material worth.

Onfido is a digital verification business powered by machine learning technology and we came across it when researching which businesses offered this on a global scale.

It offers a fast and simple way for businesses to verify identities and carry out adverse history searches remotely and at scale. Already used by Deliveroo, Handy and Uber, as well as some of the world’s leading banks, it was a logical step to get them on board.

The service can be scaled for every business, but for us, once a TrustedHousesitters member has verified their contact details and received an external reference to achieve basic verification, two further optional levels of checks are now offered through Onfido.

The standard level, which we give free to our members, requires the user to submit their driving licence or passport, from which Onfido is able to verify that the ID is legitimate and identify the user.

The enhanced level is an optional £35 and this allows house and pet sitter members to carry out a full certified criminal background check, offering home and pet owners complete peace of mind when selecting their sitter. Both options add weight to the member’s trust profile, increasing their chances of securing the best house sits.

As we find new ways to prove that our trust rating is solid, a world of opportunities can open up to every person using the sharing economy with a verified profile. These opportunities can be way beyond the average user’s normal financial means.

Once, our wallets dictated what sized villa we’d spend our holidays in, or whether we’d honeymoon in Blackpool or Barbados.

Now, within the sharing economy travel industry at the very least, a simple digital badge of trust to show you’ve completed various online verifications could mean that luxury chateaux, eco-lodges and stately homes are ready to welcome you to live like a lord or lady of the manor.


A badge is a symbol of trust that makes users feel safe

Beyond the world of travel, it could mean your cab arrives sooner, that you find a new flatmate within hours of posting a vacancy or that you are favoured for reservations and tickets.

And just like the sharing economy, the process of offering and achieving your badge of trust is a win-win for consumers and businesses.

Yes, we’ve made an investment covering the costs of Onfido’s free standard verification – but this commitment to members is vital for sharing economy businesses like ours to prove that in our world, trust is valued and rewarded above everything else.

Seven steps to building trust in the sharing economy:

1.    Ensure that online references and reviews can be requested, uploaded and made visible to every member and potential member who uses your site

2.    Invest in a digital verification process with a standard level that is free, this is a great bonus to give back to your online community

3.    Create a digital badge that is featured on member profiles, showing the various levels of verification they have undergone

4.    Offer a second, paid-for level that provides an additional criminal record check – something that instantly tells anyone wishing to share something with the member in question that they have gone above and beyond the usual requirements to prove they are trustworthy and reliable

5.    Complete the verification steps yourself so you’re the first case study – it will catch on

6.    Communicate these processes in newsletters, across your social platforms and from your homepage to encourage take-up and engagement

7.    Publicise success stories in the media or on your blog: examples of how validated, trusted profiles have achieved even more than they have set out to through their stronger, verified profiles will encourage more people to verify their profiles too

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Seven Steps To Build Instant Trust In The Sharing Economy

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