An interesting piece on usability, trust and loyalty got me thinking on two specific questions, a simple one - how does user-experience create trust? Slightly less simple one - are there other ways of creating trust than a great user experience?
Human nature: Our loyalty towards anything (living person or a non-living product/ service) is born from repeated, consistent and predictable interactions or experiences. If these interactions are positive, we start to enjoy the interactions
and slowly these interactions (digital or otherwise) become our habit – become parts of our lifestyle. We repeat them because we have actually started to enjoy them! Like it or not, a very large majority of us just love the "auto-pilot" (full control, predictable
outcomes) mode of living with low to no risks or surprises!!! Being in an "auto-pilot" state is also popularly called "habit" and this is the first sign of loyalty and trust . We normally trust things with which we interact most often with, interact with great
ease/ predictability and in these days of social communities, even share our experiences around. To sum up, great usability drives interaction frequency which builds our habits, our positive biases, our loyalty and ultimately trust. Habit in using a particular
service also means that it has become natural part of our lifestyle, and we do it without friction.
Building trust through great user experience is proven, but it is also fast becoming a "little traditional".
That is where the second question posed at the outset becomes relevant - Are there ways other than user experience to create or drive trust? I see at least three other ways (which are related to usability but solution-wise, very different):
- Empowering customers with smarter front-end. for e.g., allowing the customers to create their own "first page" in a net-bank so they can always see the information most critical to them instead of finding "their top priority" information
after x-number of clicks. Think about it. A bank has all my transaction data but still does not respect my personal preferences or gives me that little choice to make my own "drag and drop" page so I only get to see within seconds of logging in the most critical
information or action items. What about getting a weekly structured expenses summary under different categories (grocery, utilities, transport, hotels, food, etc.)? The opportunities are literally infinite.
- OBO (On-Behalf-Of) Services where the service provider/ bank proactively contacts customers for e.g., warning them of their overdue bills, offering them direct debit or other "OBO" services from banks (e.g., clearing the bill on behalf
of customer to ease the customer the "pain of log-in" and get a task done), possibly also offering "guaranteed service" that all bills henceforth will be paid on time with no penalty fee hitting the customer (of course provided there is sufficient fund in
customer's account and agreement on terms & conditions). Which customer would not welcome a bank that reaches out to them (e.g., through Facebook or SMS or phone call etc.) with warnings on unpaid bills, offering them to clear such bills with relevant service
- Targeted advisory is another powerful approach. A bank typically knows when I bought a new house, rented old one or sold it. They know when I bought or sold my car, and so forth. With my consent (if needed), from public domains/ social
media they can mine and sort out loads of information on my lifecycle, my plans (e.g., travel), my preferences (movies, books etc.) to proactively offer personalised advice on investments, renting holiday homes, renting cars, airline deals, etc. in target
geographies that I should consider so forth - with my approval before. Once a service provider/ bank becomes a part of our lifestyles (even if we do not accept all of their advices), trust has to come.
Usability is indeed an entry point to drive trust, but it is "just" that – a starting point in a long journey. Usability is much simpler, trust is far more complex.
The limitation with "user experience-only approach" is that it is still transactional in nature, driven by automation and elegant design/ look-and-feel. It delivers comfort and efficiency, but stops there. Humans need more than that - they want to use their
time more effectively, more smartly, they value near real-time advisory and banks reaching out to them. Just imagine if Apple phones, despite their great stand-alone user experience features had no service ecosystem around, offered no choices to users to pick-and-choose
free and cheap services (empowerment) - but only allowed them to call and send content? Banks have a more complex service portfolio than Apple so they can go way beyond what Apple has done, into advisory, OBO and other services.