Trust is the glue which holds the world together. It’s what enables 35 million members of BlaBlaCar’s community to share countless car journeys, every minute of the day, without ever having met before. In creating the world’s largest people-powered travel network, BlaBlaCar has to address people’s natural apprehension of trusting someone whom they’ve never met before. That’s why so much importance lies in BlaBlaCar’s core value “In Trust We Trust”.
The rise of digital trust
Previously, trust between two people could only be built up through repeat one-to-one interactions over a period of time before a certain bond was formed. In fact, for centuries trust was limited to close circles of family and friends. But today those feelings of trust, which once could only be felt in real life, are starting to be transmitted online.
Thanks to technology and new digital trust tools, platforms such as BlaBlaCar are empowering individuals to create trusted online profiles made from verified information, declarative content, and ratings from previous experiences. Taken together, this information allows peers who have never met before to make an informed decision, trust each other instantly, and start collaborating. When all this information is aggregated and made visible to others, it becomes part of an individual’s “trust capital” and peers can instantly download it. For instance, if you’ve never met Jane before, but learn about her through her profile, and read through all her positive ratings, you may start to consider her to be less of a complete stranger and more as a peer or even a future friend.
Evolution of BlaBlaCar’s trust layer
Building trust within any community is not easy, let alone online. For BlaBlaCar, it’s always been a continuous process of listening to member’s feedback and constantly iterating new features. In the early days when the platform was first launched, rides were offered similar to classified ads. It quickly became apparent that members wanted to see the name and a photo of the person they would be travelling with. Without knowing it, BlaBlaCar was beginning to build trust between people who had never met.
Year after year, the team continued to listen to its community and to the needs of the members, leading to the implementation of more and more trust features. Members’ photos, ratings, background verifications, social network connections, activity information, as well as the online booking system are just a few of the many features which were added to better the user experience and create a trusted ecosystem. After each BlaBlaCar journey, both the driver and passengers are encouraged to leave reviews for each other which is reciprocal in building an online reputation. More recently, BlaBlaCar rolled out the two-way ratings feature to ensure that fair and honest ratings are given, instead of possible “revenge ratings”. In this way, members are only able to view the rating they have received if they rate back their co-travellers within 14 days.
By building more trust features BlaBlaCar started to become more attractive for more and more people. Visitors to the platform were suddenly converting into members. The founders even began receiving calls from old friends – who had previously claimed they would never share a car journey with a stranger – saying they just tried travelling with BlaBlaCar and had a great experience. Back then, this was the proof needed that adding more trust was the key to growing the service massively and making long-distance carpooling mainstream. Today, trust is the cornerstone of BlaBlaCar.
The birth of Trustman
Back in 2012, Fred received an invite to speak at a TEDx in Paris. There was only one hot topic on his mind which he wanted to share with the world, and that was the changing scale of trust. With Fred being an avid believer in using visual experiences as vectors of learning and memorization, he knew he needed a powerful vehicle to diffuse the concept of online trust and crystallize it in his audience’s mind. After much brainstorming, the superhero of trust was born. Aptly named Trustman, it was soon to become the symbol of trust not only for BlaBlaCar, but across similar peer-to-peer platforms. By filling in one’s online profile and leaving ratings after any type of collaboration, members would contribute to an ever evolving trusted ecosystem. Today, these everyday heroes are unleashing the power of trust. We are all Trustmen and Trustwomen.
In the days leading up to the TEDx, as Fred rehearsed in front of his friends and family, it was suggested that Fred should actually become Trustman on stage and embody the superhero and all of its superpowers. Together with his teammates, Fred decided to risk it. As he tore his shirt off on stage to reveal a bright orange t-shirt with the Trustman’s “T” symbol emblazoned on it, his fellow BlaBlaCar teammates who were scattered around in the audience promptly stood up to reveal they were Trustman too, creating a “movement” in the amphitheater of La Sorbonne. Both comical and memorable, Fred knew it had all been worth it and will always remember it as the moment where the idea of a better trusted world was shared.
When D.R.E.A.M.S. come into play, trust is created
BlaBlaCar have developed today’s trust framework for the collaborative economy, summarized by the acronym D.R.E.A.M.S. This framework was not developed overnight. Instead, it’s the result of years of experimentation. In a nutshell, D.R.E.A.M.S. is the framework behind how online trust on peer-to-peer platforms is created. With each letter representing one pillar of trust, its positive tone embodies the dream of a world in which people would trust each other more.
How much do people really trust each other?
In the quest to really understand the dimensions of how much people trust one another, BlaBlaCar teamed up with NYU Stern Professor and sharing economy specialist, Arun Sundararajan to look at the mechanics of online trust and the resulting level of trust created, and more specifically on how much trust a member will give to another member with a full profile on BlaBlaCar.
Over 18,000 BlaBlaCar member across 11 countries were surveyed in 2015, making it one of the largest studies ever conducted on online trust. Key findings showed that 88% of people today highly trust BlaBlaCar members with full profiles. This trust level is highly above the trust level given to a colleague or neighbour, and almost as high as the level of trust given to a friend. And that’s between people who have never met before!
The power of internal trust
Establishing trust is not only important between members of the community, but also amongst employees at BlaBlaCar. From previous articles you may have discovered how employees share information internally every day, learn from each other and how they are free to self-organize themselves within tribes and squads. With trust built into BlaBlaCar’s DNA, a supportive environment exists where people are trusted (and encouraged!) to fail and learn and try it all again. Continuous innovation at BlaBlaCar is key to building a lasting product and internal trust is critical for fast evolution to take place.
With a “no-blame” culture in place and with internal politics being frowned upon, BlaBlaCar trusts its employees. They are the experts. They know how things must be done, and if not, they’ll seek information from colleagues and share knowledge until they adapt and learn. Internal surveys have shown that 95% of the team think managers trust them without watching over their shoulders, compared to the standard benchmark of 82%. This way of working gives everyone great autonomy, allowing individuals to stay motivated and ultimately to flourish.
The dawn of a new era where trust is king
Trust is everything. It’s core to any human collaboration, and ultimately to any social construct. Without trust, there is no collaboration, and no economy. And thus, no collaborative economy. Thanks to advancing digital trust tools, strangers are becoming connected peers, and you can now trust someone on the other side of the world without ever having met by simply downloading their trust track record.
Inside BlaBlaCar, the team strives to build and preserve this trust everyday. Members’ profiles are moderated on a daily basis by the dedicated Member Relations team, whilst new product features are continuously being integrated into the platform. All this is to guarantee the trustworthiness of the community so future travellers can comfortably say “I know with whom I’m travelling with. I’m travelling with a trusted BlaBlaCar member.”
The world as we know it is evolving and a promising era is upon us. Together, the BlaBlaCar community is carving out a path for a more trusted society with infinite possibilities.