Building Trust with Users of New Digital Solutions

Trust, a psychological state comprised of real or perceived vulnerability and openness with another person or entity in anticipation of a positive outcome is imperative when introducing new technology in any niche. Particularly, to end users not familiar with adapting to technological innovations or end users unwilling to change from the current processes and protocols they are already familiar with. This brief article will highlight some key factors to consider when building trust with end users of digital solutions. 

Interdependencies which enable trust are theorized to be cognitively and emotionally hardwired, given our pro-social nature as humans and our vulnerability at birth and dependence on a trusted parent or caregiver. As we grow older and experience and understand the negative consequences of trusting the wrong person or entity we become more risk averse, preserving our trust for only candidates we deem worthy. Further, the degree to which an individual trusts another can also be determined by that person’s history of prior failed and successful relationships based on trust.

Yet, even individuals who have suffered from perpetual violations of trust must trust just enough to be functional in society; this could range from trusting the pilot just enough to land the plane without sabotaging it when travelling to trusting the prescriptions of a physician just enough to get better when ill. Trust, in this sense, is not unidimensional but best conceived of as operating along a hierarchal continuum.

As innovators trying to gain the trust of end users, it is important to understand how individuals on average evaluate trustworthy relationships and factors that fuel their aversion to relationships based on trust. Presented below is a non-exhaustive practical account of factors to consider when trying to build trust for the uptake of new digital solutions.

Credibility, Integrity and Honesty: Even the simplest of decisions are complicated by a series of conscious and non-conscious cost-benefit analysis that can occur in seconds. Lacking credibility, integrity or honesty are three core components that could significantly negatively affect the end user’s evaluation of your solution. End users, in the absence of any history or knowledge of your innovation or product, are likely to use their knowledge of other products to assess yours. A climate of internet/phone-based scammers is likely to make end users sceptical about converting to digital processes, particularly when finances are involved. During the trust-building process, it is important to realise that in the absence of a well-known brand name, individuals are likely to make judgements about your product based on the failures of your perceived predecessors. Therefore, these failures must not be swept under the rug as the problems of a third party lacking credibility but engaged with to make potential end users understand how you would not make the same mistakes or lapses of moral and ethical judgement, in an honest and verifiable manner.   

Value, Ability and Consistency: The most successful businesses address needs, either pre-existing needs, needs the end-user was never aware of but became enlightened about, or newly created needs that the end user has to now address. The beginning of almost every trust-based relationship, particularly business-based relationships is the cost-benefit analysis. The end user, either articulated or not, will be primarily concerned about the value your innovation offers. End users will also want to know if you have to ability to deliver on the value you claim to bring to them. Lastly, there must be consistency, trust building is perpetual; it is not a one-time battle, but a journey that must continue against all odds. 

No Zero-Sum Games: Utilization of your product must be a win-win situation for both your product and the end user. Getting new users to trust your product enough to engage with it is indeed a difficult process. However, part of the key to successful trust-based business relationships and brand loyalty is the emotional and cognitive feeling of triumph the end user gets after using your product; the feeling that they have successfully navigated the various options available and utilized one where they have not left feeling cheated or exploited.

Leverage Reviews and feedback: For startups, and indeed, any organisation, reviews and feedback, particularly if negative and reoccurring, must be viewed as an opportunity for learning and improving services.  Monitoring, evaluation and learning can sometimes be resource intensive, and biased if not outsourced. However, getting feedback from users is a cost-effective way of understanding the user experience of your product 

Leverage on Data and External Facing Regulatory Mechanisms: Maximize the use of data generated through your digital solution in an ethical way that provides added value for your end users. Provide mechanisms for end users to rate each other; this gives users a greater sense of control over who they choose to interact with. 

This brief article highlighted some key factors to consider when building trust with new users of digital solutions. Building and maintaining trust with end users of digital solutions must be conceived as perpetual processes. Credibility, integrity, honesty, value for money, ability for the digital solution to perform consistently, providing win-win situations, leveraging on customer feedback, data and rating systems are some of the practical ways to build trust with new users of digital solutions.

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