When I started in University, there were these little beige boxes with a built in screen over in the corner of the Typesetting room. 5 years after the first Apple Macintosh, personal computers were making their way into the training establishments for future newspaper and publishing industry employees.
Naturally most of the class avoided them. It was 1989 after all and in my experience most computers were still mainly for games or typing using Wordstar and DOS or Windows 3 if you were lucky. One or two significant others and I, however, did not. We taught ourselves Pagemaker 3.0, QuarkXPress 1.0 and Illustrator among other ways of doing things.
We drew and wrote things on that tiny screen, not necessarily because it was easier, but because it was different. And we grew to trust that little Mac Classic so much that even when we got fancy LCIIIs and Quadra 800s for the main class we still went back to it.
This week I talked with a friend about reasons why we buy certain products. Especially when we continually go back to the same brands. Even when those companies become surrounded by earned and unearned controversy.
I told him I believed it’s because we trusted what we were getting. I understand there is a bit more to it than that – value and cost springs to mind – especially on smaller ticket items. But I firmly believe trust is a large reason for sticking with a product. Trust in a brand, trust in the service, trust in the dependability of their products.
Similarly, I trust my coffee shop to give me the coffee the way they know I like it in the morning. Others might dispute my rationale that it’s the best coffee in Sydney. But I know I’m getting what I want and trust them to continue take care of my tastebuds.
Like us all, I’m a creature of habit. So what if we’re all wired subtly differently, we all have habits we find difficult to let go of. Otherwise, how can we explain our ongoing resistance to change, despite the knowledge that all things must, in the end, change?
While I was chatting about my first few weeks in college over a cup of coffee with a friend. I recalled how that time involved learning how to use the antiquated technology that was still in wide use in the Newspaper industry in 1989. Seven Inch Green screens. Eight inch floppy disks. Processing units the size of a Fiat 500.
Just so we could enter and tag text.
I adore those machines for teaching me my understanding of tagging, but not for being the key piece of a workflow which seemed idiotic even to a 17 year old know it all.
That those machines were still in wide use in the late 80′s seems odd to us now. But if you understood the industry they served you’d know it was probably because in a time of a slow adoption of new technology and in an industry even slower to move, they provided an easier and cheaper way of producing newspapers than traditional linotype and their ilk had become. Remember there were still plenty of hot metal printing shops in operation past 1989.
But those systems were also built and supported by companies such as Linotype. The same brand, with existing Customer Service and Support machinery. And a long history in the publishing and printing industry. A different product, yes, but a company trusted by that large industry with many of its key stakeholders resistant to change.
More than 20 years later, as we move into the second decade of the 21st century, it’s interesting to see similar trust patterns continue with new products in the consumer world. Those computers have shrunk even smaller than the MacClassic I described earlier and become consumer devices. Used in active and passive ways to assist us in enjoying our cosseted lifestyles. From the digital clock to the ATM to the car you drive, computers are in practically everything we touch.
The problem with most of these devices which make our lives easier is that we really don’t trust them. While we enjoy the benefits they bring to us, we expect them to fail us by breaking down at any moment. We rejoice when something survives past its warranty date, yet still buy cheap no name products and feel let down when they fail. Does that sound like a contradiction? Absolutely!
Many of us strive to buy certain products because we trust when we go to use them they will work. This is especially important for those things we don’t use too often. And when they don’t we trust the companies which make them to think it worthwhile to at least attempt fix them. In our consumer “buy, use and discard” society, it’s becoming more and more unusual to find products and services to buy which you can invest that type of trust in.
Our Bosch washing machine has been going for 8 years without a problem and our Bosch dishwasher (even older) survives manfully on one successful service call.
I don’t think it is a surprise then that Bosch use “Invented for Life” as their motto. It’s an interesting corporate statement, but considering their product quality, service and support perhaps apt. I take two meanings from it – we want you to use our products in your life and we want you to use our products for life.
So far not only do they say it, but when you see tradies trusting their power tools and our own experiences, I’m thinking its a reasonably safe bet you’ll get what they promise.
The quote “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved” by the Scottish Author and Poet George McDonald was shared this week on twitter and I was immediately struck by it. A very powerful statement, I think we’ll agree.
Thinking about this and talking with my wife, I realised that while personal relationships are built on many things, in the end trust grows to becomes the backbone of that relationship. Meeting for coffee or down the pub or chatting online are important relationship starters, but in the end are just an important habit or a ritual which we enjoy with each other.
Listening to others, taking what they say as truth or at least accepting their arguments despite disagreement. Accepting recommendations – those things are all built on trust.
The same can be said for relationships like marriage. Even those without a great deal of love often stay together because of force of habit. But those same relationships would disintegrate without trust.
An so in a week when Google announce their latest update to the Android operating system and have been in trouble for collecting our Private data as it was being sent over unsecured Wi-Fi connections, trust is on my mind when it comes to technology companies. And I’m not even going to mention a certain other online service.
Salesforce seem to understand the importance of being trusted by their users. Providing “real-time information on system performance and security” for their customers 24/7 is obviously a must have for the services which they provide. But why should it be limited to companies who operate exclusively on the internet?
I use Google services, and I love their Gmail and Search products, though I constantly question how they use the information I share with them and which they then use to make their profits.
And even though, on the face of it, those issues with Privacy are a completely different business to the Mobile Phone business, the reduction in trust of a company overall caused by recent admissions is going to be unhelpful to them. For example it’s not going to help convince me or anyone else to switch to the Phones supplied by Google’s Android Partners in the near future.
Naturally, they already have some way to go to convince many of us to trust their obviously clever and innovative products. They have no history with us to prove they can provide us with the dependability, reliability and service we have with existing products. For myself, I’m happy with what I currently use and most importantly what I currently use has not done anything to break my trust.
Like that MacClassic of 21 years ago, companies need to put something in my path at a time perfect enough to attract my attention and break my existing habits or create new ones. But even if they do that, those organisations which I do trust, like Apple and Bosch will still need to give me a series of bad customer experiences, either in service or product quality, to destroy that trust in order for me to even consider casting my net for alternatives.
As I see it recently only iPad (launching this week in Australia) has entered the market as a new habit creator of the form I mention above. Just as those in the publishing world who cast aspersions on the abilities of Desktop computers to replace the known systems back in the 1980′s were wrong, I believe the trust relationship Apple have built up in the marketplace for building reliable, usable products allied with good customer service will allow iPad to succeed.
However, it’s easy to make your fans happy, its another thing to have a sustainable level of reliability. Unless Apple proves the iPad habit changer is also worth trusting or Google and their vendors show that with Android they have a trusted habit breaker, it’ll be some time before we can say if either Product has legs built upon a trust well earned.