Trust is the lifeblood of any business that operates online. It’s what attracts users to a platform and what encourages them to engage with that platform. Social media platforms, online dating services, e-learning providers, online marketplaces, and peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing platforms could not exist if users didn’t trust those platforms.
But trust does not develop overnight. Understandably, most people approach a new online business or platform with skepticism — until that business has proven itself worthy of their trust. This process takes time and, perhaps more importantly, it takes consistency.
In other words, customer trust is one of the most valuable assets an online business can have, and it’s only natural that businesses should want to take steps to develop and protect that trust.
How can online businesses ensure they are providing users with a consistently safe and trustworthy experience? One of the most effective ways is to build a trust and safety team.
Below, we explain what a trust and safety team is and what they do. We also discuss why trust is so important to online platforms and offer advice you can use to empower your team to do their job more effectively.
Why is trust so important to online businesses?
Users won’t interact with online platforms they don’t trust. This means they need to believe they can use the platform and its services without being harmed by fraud or other nefarious activities. It also means that businesses have an incentive to address these concerns in order to offer a safe environment for their users.
Social media platforms and online dating services, for example, have to worry about whether their users are vulnerable to harassment from other users, impersonation, catfishing, identity theft, and even blackmail.
Online marketplaces, on the other hand, have to worry about how users on both sides of a transaction might be harmed. This may include buyers inadvertently purchasing fake or counterfeit products or even potentially having their payment information stolen. It may also include sellers dealing with transaction fraud and chargeback fraud, amongst other types of marketplace fraud.
With this in mind, trust is especially important for any business that facilitates transactions, such as online marketplaces and other forms of P2P sharing platforms. That’s because these businesses’ entire business model revolves around their ability to provide a safe space for people to complete a transaction.
If users don’t trust that a platform is safe, it’s highly unlikely that they’d ever make a purchase through, or interact with, that marketplace. After all, why would they? And if they do trust a platform, but that trust is broken due to an interaction they have on the platform, then they may never use the marketplace again. In fact, they may even switch to a competitor for future transactions.
That’s why it’s so important for an online business to have a trust and safety team in place: to foster customer trust and address any problems as they arise.
What is a trust and safety team?
A trust and safety team is the team within a business — usually an online platform — that is charged with promoting a safe environment for the business’s users or customers to engage in.
Their basic objectives are to contribute to their business’s goals around customer acquisition, retention, and engagement by reducing the risk that users will encounter fraud, harassment, or other types of harm while they are interacting with the platform. With this in mind, they’re often seen as something of a “bridge” between a business’s growth and fraud teams.
The composition of a trust and safety team will vary depending on a variety of different factors, including:
- The size and maturity of the business
- The type of business
- The types of risk the business is exposed to
- The rules and regulations the business is subject to
- The business’s internal policies
With this in mind, there are many different roles that may fall under the helm of the trust and safety team. Some of the most common include:
- Trust and safety officers
- Content moderators
- Data analysts
- Legal resources
- Intelligence agents
- Law enforcement liaisons
What does a trust and safety team do?
Exactly how a trust and safety team goes about promoting a safe environment for users will vary from business to business according to a number of factors. One of the most important factors is how users interact with the platform.
A trust and safety team employed by a social media platform, for example, will likely be more focused on content moderation, because it is through content that the vast majority of their users interact with their platform. A team employed by an online marketplace, on the other hand, will likely be more focused on rooting out fraud on either side of a transaction — again, because it is through transactions that the vast majority of their users interact with their platform.
Generally speaking, however, all trust and safety teams are concerned with rooting out bad actors — users that are causing other users harm — and penalizing them or removing them from the platform.
In addition to content moderation, other activities that trust and safety teams often engage in include:
- Adding identity verification to the account opening process: Verifying a user’s identity when they join your platform can be an effective means of mitigating instances of identity theft, impersonation, money laundering, and other types of fraud. Online marketplaces may also soon be required to verify the identity of their sellers if the INFORM Consumers Act and SHOP Safe Act become law.
- Periodically reverifying users: Reverification allows you to ensure that a user’s account has not been compromised when certain high-risk actions occur. This can include when a user changes their contact information or payment information, when they make a purchase, and at other key junctures.
- Manually reviewing flagged cases: Often, it’s possible to identify cases of harassment or fraud automatically. But some cases (particularly complex cases) may require a human eye to come to a decision. In these cases, a member of the trust and safety team may manually review the case in order to determine whether further action must be taken.
- Continuously evaluating the platform’s policies: Fraudsters are constantly evolving. This means online platforms must also evolve to meet new and emerging threats. With this in mind, the trust and safety team is often responsible for auditing their platform’s policies and workflows in order to identify potential threats and areas of improvement that will better allow them to perform their duties.
Supporting your team
As your platform continues to grow and scale, drawing in more and more users, it will usually lead to a higher volume of reports that will need to be investigated and acted upon — potentially stretching your team thin and leaving your platform and users vulnerable to bad actors.
With this in mind, it’s important to have a plan in place to scale your trust and safety activities alongside your business. At its most basic, this might mean adding more folks to your trust and safety team. But this might not be necessary. By leveraging technology and automation, it’s possible to empower your existing team to do more without needing to add new members.
The right tools for the job
Here at Persona, we understand just how important it is for online platforms to build and protect the trust of their customers and users. We also understand how having the right tools and technologies in place can help your trust and safety team do their job more effectively and efficiently. This understanding has informed each of the solutions we offer our users.
Make it harder for bad actors to join your platform by verifying your users’ identity during the onboarding process. Leverage reverification to further protect your users and business. Automate as much or as little of the process as you see fit using custom workflows. Leverage link analysis and manual review to identify and resolve instances of fraud.