The New Age of Trust
PRODUCT LOYALTY FOLLOWS TRUST LIKE FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION. I recently read this excellent article on how amazing products shape a relationship with their customers based on Trust. I think great products are the first step in building this relationship. There are many other aspects which do not really count as product but are becoming seemingly important in this current age of technology.
“When you use a product, every engagement with that product has a direct correlation with your perception of the value of that product.” — Quote from the Article
In the current age of technology it is not just necessary to have a product that elegantly, and simply solves problems which people face everyday, it is table stakes. Over the time product experiences have improved considerably and the tolerance towards bad products has drastically reduced. Today with the consumerization of the Enterprise, design and experience matter for all products regardless of how they’re distributed to the end user.
One of today’s most important pieces of real estates other than the technical specification of the product is Product Status/Trust and Customer Support. Having worked on both of these pieces recently and dissecting it from many angles I can only imagine what poor development of these pieces would do to the business. Developing a ServiceStatus/Trust page presents interesting product and technical challenges.
“Product loyalty follows trust.” Communication and Transparency are the cornerstones of Trust.
Lets first look at the Product challenges. The first page which the customers hit when they have issues with the product is Product Status/Trust. Consider yourself lucky if it was a stupid browser issue (like cache) or issue with their laptop. If not, the customer expects transparency (what exactly is wrong) and communication from the Product Status/Trust page.
A Product Status/Trust page is also the page which prospects visit. Initially when the product is gaining momentum the amount of prospects visiting the page are more than the customers.
As the Product starts to mature and gather more customers the Status/Trust page has to also metamorphose into serving that purpose better.
As the Product becomes popular both the customer and the prospect visit the page with very different mindsets. For the customer it has to be the source of truth for issues they may experience such as downtime and root cause analysis. It revolves around radical transparency and effective communication. For prospects it should give them all the necessary information to make an informed decision. It has to make them love the service even more and become a conversation piece for your Sales rep. I have seen many Status/Trust pages and found that only a few of them really do their job in serving both the masses.
Customer and Prospect demographic is probably one of the most overlooked aspects during the development of a Status/Trust page.
Once the product is designed, most of the time customers find amazing ways to use the product which the founders never imagined. In some ways it shapes the future of the product and the platform. This is especially true in terms of Products which also provide APIs. With the growing trend of B2B2C, B2C2B and other hybrid distribution models there are often direct customers, partners, resellers, channel partners, early stage prospects and late stage prospects. Understanding how they report on the service, how they understand the SLA and how they react to downtime is paramount in creating something which they find value in. Analytics for the page should give you insights on how the page is consumed and how it should evolve.
Technical hardships in building the Status/Trust page are abundant.
As there is a popular adage that one cannot solve for all technical constraints, choosing the right platform to build the page is very important.If they share the same platform it’s easy to automate adding information to the page but if the Product and the Status/Trust page share the same platform than there can be situation when both are down.
Building something with 100% availability is hard and almost impossible.
Despite the importance of a Trust/Status page it’s not responsible to say the page can never/will never be down as no technology is perfect, the best that can be done is having the highest commercially reasonable availability and mitigating risk in situations of downtime. The worst case scenario as mentioned above, is the risk of both the product and the Trust/Status Page being down. If the product is down your customers want immediate answers and understanding of the issue and if the Trust/Status Page is not up it will only exacerbate the problem. Also you should use product grade monitoring tools for these pages. It should be easy/automated to display information as soon as an issue is detected. In my view extra care should be exercised if the page is automated. If the creation of information is manual it has to be smooth and try to mitigate human errors as much as possible. The reason being when there is an issue it is probably a chaotic time for everyone on the concerned team.
Outbound notifications are very important for the Trust Page. In the situation when your service has a multi-tenant architecture, issues might arise in one or more tenants. Hence, build in notifications in the form of RSS and Tweets helps to reach all customers. Selective per tenant notifications are very unscalable. So far I have seen RSS and tweets are the best mass mediums for sending notifications for such pages.
Easy access to the right people to update the Trust Page is paramount.
In a situation when the Service disruption occurs, customers get notified via RSS and other channels. Customers also check the trust page. They would also try and call enterprise support. So if we fundamentally see the Trust Page it should be the exact information that the support team wants to send out to the customers. Hence, the support team should be one of the major stakeholders in the development of the page.
Architectural design and development of the Trust Page has taught me much in the last few months. I am happy to hear feedback/questions and comments on the same.
We just launched a newer Trust Page with a cleaner design: https://trust.okta.com/