Blablacar’s recipe for creating trust

What if the recipe for building trust could be summarized in six key ingredients? Blablacar’s founders came up with a new framework describing them.

During the recent LeWeb London conference in June 2013, the founders of BlaBlaCar, Frederic Mazzella and Nicolas Brusson, revisited the key issues of trust surrounding the interaction between individuals. They invited us to share their “D.R.E.A.M.S.” of digital hippies.

At the end of 2012, BlaBlaCar had initially published the “Trustman Study” which was based on surveys and analysis of the behavior of its users. The ride sharing European leader of car sharing had therefore already explored all the possible trust issues when it comes to allowing strangers to enter into a transaction. Pursuing this foundation of trust, the founding team presents the new D.R.E.A.M.S. framework.

D.R.E.A.M.S. is a methodology based on the six pillars of trust in a peer-to-peer network. It explains that in order to interact with one another with complete trust, members in a peer-to-peer network must have access to information that is Declared, Rated, Engaged, Active, Moderated and Social. This is how it all works:

D for Declared

The users declare their information in a basic way. They give their name, add a photo, and depending on the service, they sometimes add a short bio and preferences (whether or not they are smokers, talkative, if they accept dogs, what music they listen to, etc.)

R for Rated

This is the possibility for network members to rate one another. The ratings given by members after sharing a ride together significantly increase the level of trust within the community and the credibility of the service. Ratings allow others to know that a member has used the service and that this member is recommended to others. They are ratings about people, from people, expressing trust.

E for Engaged

This is the commitment that one stakeholder expose to the others, in order to reassure both parties that they are serious in their plans and that they intend on following through the proposed transaction.

This is more than a simple verbal agreement. The commitment has to take place before the foreseen transaction in order to generate trust and this is often achieved via a pre-payment system on the collaborative consumption platform (a trusted third party). It’s now made simple and secure through the use of current technology.

A for Active

Active or Activity can actually be seen from 2 different angles:

Active refers to the activity of the members themselves: are they often connected to the site? Do they respond to all their messages? Do they publish a great deal of content on the network etc… The trusted third party site must for example show on each profile the last login date/hour and the response rate and time of the members. An active member who responds quickly generates a greater degree of trust than one who does not.

Activity refers to the “context” in which the information is generated. Reviews are only valuable if they are associated with an activity. A good Driver on BlaBlaCar may not be a good seller on eBay and vice versa. Therefore, information which can be accessed on the peer-to-peer network must be contextual.

M for Moderated

Moderation on a peer-to-peer network is composed of two main components.

The verification of the information declared by members: is it the right email address, the correct phone number, correct mailing address, correct bank details and postal address etc…

The acceptance of textual and visual content by the team who manages the network, to ensure that there is a good quality of information available on the site.

For example BlaBlaCar verifies its members’ email address, bank account details, phone number and mailing address.

S for Social

Finally, in connecting with all the other social networks, one create what  we used to call at Cup of teach (my former startup) an “automated, trusted third party.” Users’ digital presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc., is further proof of their existence in real life.

In order to support this new formalized D.R.E.A.M.S. framework, BlaBlaCar conducted a survey from a broad sample of users. This allows us to assess the importance of D.R.E.A.M.S. profiles and the degree of trust that we can realistically build “remotely” in a community of collaborative consumption, with the tools that we possess today. Therefore, on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 = being no level of trust and 5 = being a very high-level of trust), the “trust score” of several categories of our contacts and relations have been assessed by the community and are as follows:

  • Strangers: 2.2
  • Facebook friends: 3.5
  • Neighbours: 3.6
  • Colleagues: 3.8
  • D.R.E.A.M.S. profile: 4.2
  • Friends and family members: 4.7

We thus see that D.R.E.A.M.S. profiles generate a high level of trust: more than neighbours, Facebook friends and colleagues and almost as much as friends and family members. D.R.E.A.M.S. is an effective tool for entrepreneurs in the collaborative economy to create a trusted community of users where suspicion is no longer an issue.

However, as Frederic Mazzella explained to me before going on stage at LeWeb, implementing all of the D.R.E.A.M.S. features at the launch of a service will probably not be easy, and is not necessarily the best thing to do. Indeed, such a high level of trust is not always necessary to attract early comers for a concept or service.

In addition, the fact that implementing all the six pillars of trust right from ‘day one’ would be an enormous task and technical challenge. Actually, Mazzella even advises new collaborative consumption services not to try and implement everything at the beginning. All six pillars of trust in the D.R.E.A.M.S. profile only become essential once the service has become mainstream and engages growth (and therefore trust) on a large scale.

Thirsty for more? Watch Frederic Mazzella and Nicolas Brusson’s talk at LeWeb:

This article was initially published in French.