If you’re in any kind of relationship, you understand how important trust is — but you also understand how fragile it can be. Trust issues occur most when you or your partner are trying to change something in the relationship. Almost always starting out as good intentioned, even subtle acts can turn into a last straw pretty quickly. Product Management is no different.
In a recent conversation with my mom, my girlfriend asked what has kept her and my dad together for 30 years (Congrats Mom & Dad!). As it always seems to be with them, her answer was simple, “Regardless of the situation, I trust that he can always make me laugh”. We all loved it. Maybe it was the timing, or the fact it was my Mom, but something about it stuck.
Over the next two weeks I realized why it stayed with me. It wasn’t a promise that was kept, or a thought that was fulfilled, but an existing quality that she knew she could count on when my Dad came up short, or flat out screwed up. Shortly thereafter it became clear to me that this wasn’t just applicable to human-to-human relationships, but also the relationship from Product Manager-to-Product. I saw a crucial step I was overlooking in building a sustainable product — The Trust Statement.
A Trust Statement provides a clear definition of an existing experience that will be there “regardless of the situation”. Some Product Managers may build this into a mission, or a vision statement, but I’ve found that these statements tend to be more promise, or intention driven, rather than describing something that already exists and users can always rely on. I’ve been using this as it’s own statement for products recently, and it’s proved to be invaluable.
If you wait to long, your mistakes will dictate your statement.
After looking at a lot of methodologies surrounding Product Management, I believe a trust statement should be developed after the launch of your MVP. You can’t understand your trust statement without seeing what small thing people love about your product, and if you wait too long there will be a problem that dictates the trust statement. A trust statement can’t be measured by data, it can only be recognized by speaking with your users. If you wait to find out why they trust your product over another, you can’t actually understand why they chose you in the first place.
Your product was born with natural abilities. What is it’s most redeeming quality?
My dad has always been able to make my mom laugh, and he always will. This isn’t something he has to work at, and it’s not something that can change because of a mistake he makes. My mom is also not the only woman to find my dad funny, but she is the one who appreciates it more than any other. Your product, just like humans, will have flaws. You may design an awful UI (like my dads hair in the 90’s), or realize there’s a hole in your security after it’s too late, but through all of that, why will your users still have a connection to the product? I assure you it won’t be what you’ve promised them you’ll do, or the possibilities of what the future could look like. Find that existing quality of your product people connect with on a deeper level and make sure you never bury or get rid of it.
Your statement should be something that a user feels, not uses.
At the end of the day, products should create an emotional connection between it and it’s user. That may sound obvious, but some forget that an emotional connection isn’t sustainable without trust. I don’t use Netflix because I can watch movies, or the interface, I use Netflix because I trust the product to always makes me feel like the more I watch, the more “cultural” I become. I don’t still use Evernote because it has great security features, or has a nice file structure (which it doesn’t). I use Evernote because I feel that it makes me more productive, and make me a better version of myself because I use it. I hope that will always be the case, but if I no longer trust that it enables a better version of myself, I will likely move to another application that does.
Building trust into a product is something we all must take a closer look at. It’s not about marketing, and it’s not about what you aim to provide each user. It’s about finding that “something” that reminds your user why they use your product over something else and having that drive your product decisions. Product Managers are in the unique position of managing a relationship with their product, and facilitating the relationship of users and the product. In order to gain insight into why your users trust the product fill in the blank below:
“regardless of the situation, I trust that this product can always make me _____________.”
*As I was putting thoughts to computer I started to question whether it’s necessary to even write this. It seems like something everyone does already, but as I asked around, did some research, and I’m not sure that’s true. We all know that trust is central to a sustainable user base, but it seems to me not many people can truly articulate what it is that there users trust about their products. I try to always remember that a product is created by the Product Manager, but grows because of the relationship it forms with the user.