When we use complex systems like computers, repeated consistent behaviours (of the system) over time builds up our trust in the system.

In the same way, the more inconsistencies or oddities that we experience over time, however insignificant, the more our trust in the system is eroded.

It is like we maintain a trust account in our heads/hearts for every system we work with.

A computer is the immediate example that comes to mind. Imagine if one day, a particular folder suddenly started behaving oddly. Perhaps you can no longer see any subfolders inside of it (this has happened to me). Or perhaps you can no longer name files with certain words. And none of the probably causes check out. That would seriously start eating away at in your trust bank wouldn’t it?!

The same is true of services. Imagine trying to post a parcel overseas and being told by the post office, on different days, that you needed different documents and processes (this happened to a friend of mine recently.) It would start to erode any trust you may have had in the service.

Other than working to debug, improve and ensure as much consistency as possible in the systems we are responsible for, is there anything more we can do? Sometimes I am surprised that so many complex systems and processes work so well. Like the system that keeps large numbers of people flying around the globe without too many terrible accidents.

How can we make the inevitable loss of trust less painful? Despite what the legal department will say, sincerely apologising for a mistake, and genuine empathy for the customer’s position, can go a long way. More action-oriented information can help too. A lot of the frustration around something going wrong is that we feel helpless because we do not know enough to do anything useful. Inactivity just makes the frustration worse!