Personality & Community: Building User Trust by Being Yourself

Posted on 22 September 2011

Working for an industry giant like my previous employer, I was conditioned to be accurate, well written, and maintain an even tone. It was very…robotic.

Everyone that produced content to be consumed by the public had to go through a stringent vetting process, agreeing to conform…basically becoming one part of a collective voice.

Everything that was written or said had to be able to pass through a legal “filter” if challenged, so most of the content was as bland as an unsalted cracker. Yuck.

Phrases like “we’re sorry,” and words like “unfortunately” were frowned upon because they could be construed as admission of fault, which could be a liability.

The thing is, that mentality distances the company from the end user and vice versa which is never a good thing. Over time that collective voice becomes hard to trust because you don’t know who (if anyone) is really talking to you.

If everything is metered and without nuance how can the end user relate? Relating is the basis of relationship and relationships are what EVERY business should strive towards. It’s that relationship built on trust that earns brand loyalty!  Most of the time all a customer is looking for is recognition of the problem, which should always be the first step in problem resolution.

I once got an email from a user with a complaint that ended in “I’m sure no one is actually reading this and my response will probably be from a robot.” I answered the email in the manner in which I was vetted, but ended it by saying, “Robots are people too.”  I wanted him to know I was paying attention, and it worked.

The customer was not only amused but went out of his way to write me back, thanking me profusely for my attention and efforts to help him resolve his issue.

To me, that’s proof that when someone believes that you’re paying attention they appreciate and trust that you’re interested in helping. Keyword, “trust.”  Trust leads to brand loyalty.

It sounds simple eh? Yeah, it is.

In my opinion, the best community managers are humans, not Borg.

Obviously it’s important to work within the boundaries set by your company but don’t be afraid to show some humanity. You’ll find it goes a long way.

Thanks for reading!

-Eric


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