28 September 2017

Trust isn’t Given, it’s Earned

by Stephanie Lummis

My digital philosophy is about trust.

I have been working in digital since 1995 when the World Wide Web was still in its infancy. I sold dial-up accounts to people with 9600 baud modems, and I gave demonstrations of Netscape Navigator to shoppers at a mall in North Vancouver. Their reactions were of skepticism and wonder.

20 years later reactions are similar, as the industry continues to push people to move their lives online, to abandon the face-to-face. Everyday, we are asking people to trust digital with all they hold dear.

First impressions are everything

Online, people’s expectations are high and their patience is low. I have spent my career studying their online behaviours – and nothing erodes trust faster than a poor user experience. It doesn’t matter if you are the absolute best at what you do. If your online experience hinders someone in any way from getting to what they want, trust is unlikely to grow.

This is important because the quality of the experience translates directly to your brand. People base their decision to enter into a relationship with you on it. “Their mobile site sucks. Their yoga classes probably do too.” Or heat pumps, or legal counsel, or whatever good or service you provide.

This is especially important in government, where transparency and credibility are hard fought at every turn in both online and offline interactions. Twitter backlash will tell you that a bad experience wastes every taxpayer’s dollars, not just the consumer’s time.

Keep them coming back for more

Conversely, people are loyal to a great user experience. They will give an OK product another chance, they will try again to establish a relationship if the digital experience is good. And even if they discover that you don’t have what they want – their opinion of your brand can stay positive.

If it is advertising’s job is to get attention, it is a website’s job to give attention – to act as concierge and cater to the customer’s needs. Success of a web asset should be measured in the successes of the people it caters to, not the largest number reported. Focus on the activities that show people did what they wanted to do: registered for a license, didn’t pick up the phone, customized their purchase, etc.

Relationships need care and feeding

Don’t just look at the numbers – qualitative observation is just as important. This is a continuous process because as technology evolves, so do people’s expectations. A website experience that once made them happy, will no longer do so if it is left to stagnate. Keep talking to your customers about what they need, keep testing, and feed what you learn back into the experience. You’ll maintain healthy, trusting relationships.

Is your current user experience hurting your ability to build trust with customers? User experience consultation can help.