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Jim Winsett of the BBB.

Question: In a world of fake news and false reviews, it's hard to know who to trust. Can the BBB help me find trustworthy businesses in my community in 2019?

Answer: Yes, The way we buy has changed and it's NOT one size fits all! The digital landscape provides great power to consumers and they are able to research more about brands than ever before. AND buyers (at any age) want to know what brands they can trust!

In BBB's Trust Sentiment Index research in 2017, we found:

» Millennial consumers are more likely to start with trust. Meaning, they're more likely to trust a brand blindly.

» Older generations are much more likely to be skeptical.

» Most consumers research reviews online before considering a product or service.

» Millennial's and Gen - Zer's are most likely to buy a product, or use a service, if recommended by an influencer (celebrity or someone with a large following).

We believe 5 key factors will define trust in the marketplace in 2019:

1. Personal relationships. The "Personalized Customer Experience" is becoming ever more common. Technology and different software platforms have made it very easy for businesses to create a personalized experience and customers have almost come to expect a certain amount of individualized support. Personalized experiences also create trust. Thank you cards, "Happy Birthday" email offers, and customer surveys are good examples.

2. Customer reviews. Customer reviews have provided power to consumers like never before. And while they are (at times) dreaded by business owners, they've been a good thing for overall market relations by giving customers a voice to praise the good guys and warn others about the bad. Managing and responding to customer reviews will be a major factor for building trust in the coming year!

3. Responsiveness and speed. Today's consumers expect information quickly and easily. We've entered a time where we can get most anything we want at the push of a button(or ask of an Alexa)! Responsiveness (while always important) will be particularly important to building trust in 2019.

4. Transparency. Privacy has almost become a luxury! The rise of social media and smart devices has created an environment where information is readily available AND easily distorted. Transparency is important to today's consumer because they are scrambling to know who to trust. Data breaches, scams, and overall bad marketplace behavior has caused this discourse. Transparency about business dealings, specialties, and even contact information, will be important in building trust — now more than ever.

5. Consistency. Consistency builds trust! Humans crave consistency at a base level and red flags tend to go off when messaging, branding, or the customer service experience is inconsistent.

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.