Can you hack your way to trust?
Trust is a complex subject. Yet for brands and businesses, it’s one of the most desired and discussed constructs. There are two specific notions about trust that we need to reconsider. The first is the time view of trust: that it takes ages to build. In fact, it’s the frequency and quality of experiences that builds trust, not the time elapsed.
The second notion that needs busting is the absoluteness ascribed to trust – that either you have it or you don’t. Trust is not a binary construct, it’s a continuum. The amount of trust needed for a relationship to click is a function of one’s potential liability or the degree of risk involved. I may trust you enough to buy a mobile accessory but not enough to buy a car from you. Just as I may trust you enough to discuss work problems but not enough to discuss personal ones.
In the last decade, there are many examples of brands and even public icons who have managed to quickly scale up the public-trust ladder. Patanjali, one of the biggest brands of FMCG today is not more than a decade old. It must command some degree of trust to clock a revenue of over `10,000 crores in just a few years. Similarly, Narendra Modi, who hadn’t been on the national stage for more than half a decade, garnered enough trust amongst the people of the country to be sent to parliament with 282 seats in the 2014 elections. Many brands such as Ola, Amazon and Sensodyne that have become a part of our everyday lives are less than five years old in India.
This means we can hack our path to trust. Since it doesn’t necessarily have to be all or nothing, we can build it in small measures and catalyse our speed to get there. There are three strategies to do this.
High visibility around a brand is a quick way to build trust: You meet someone every day and your mind tricks you into believing that you have known the person for a long time. If the sum total of those interactions is positive, you believe it’s a relationship of trust. That’s how perhaps quick dates lead to relationships. Positive familiarity lulls you into trust. Brands wanting to build trust must interact with people as often as they can.
Using other’s positive experiences to build trust amongst the fence-sitters: Trust is a pattern of experiences; it could be yours or the expressed experiences of others. A part of this strategy includes pretending the momentum. Brands in markets such as India must pretend that they are already a successful phenomenon. The consumer, for whom the cost of going wrong is higher than the reward of being an early adopter, waits for the signals that the brand has crossed the chasm. Many others adopting a behaviour makes one feel that one is in a safe boat. Popularity is a good surrogate for trust. Brands must build an aura of success.
Effectively dealing with a breach of trust: What happens when there’s a breach of trust? Would you be there to listen and sort things out? In relationships, how we respond to differences, goes a long way in building trust. Similarly, for brands, how we address grievances and complaints plays a big role in building trust. Do you have a number that I can reach you at, do you have a service centre which will fix my product, do you say sorry when things go wrong, is there a precedence of you having treated others well? A breach of trust can build trust, if handled constructively.
Unfortunately, trust is seen as an outcome of several decades of good karma. The truth is that trust is something that can be actively worked upon. Brands can quickly scale up their trust quotient by building positive familiarity, posturing momentum and turning the moment of breach into a moment of renewed trust.