Continuous trust: a shot in the arm for user experience

Entire customer journeys are taking place within advanced digital ecosystems where trust is easier to break and harder to build. How can businesses strike the right chord?
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For the first time, 2021 saw successful fraud attempts outnumber those prevented. This leap in cases brings the severity of current data breach concerns into sharp focus.

More than ever, leaders are tasked with balancing trust, a cornerstone for building loyalty and enhancing brand reputation, and customer experience. The convenience economy is thriving and catering to time-hungry customers while delivering secure connections is crucial for longevity in highly connected online environments.

Joe Burton, CEO of digital identity company Telesign explains: “As security has improved, the process for the consumer has become more elaborate and complicated; you have a name, you have a password. Now you need a longer password. Now you have to answer five challenge questions”. Enhanced security, a necessity in the ever-growing digital world, comes with a lot of potential friction for customers.
“In balancing security and user experience, there cannot be a trade-off. But how do we create an experience that has the appropriate amount of friction, the appropriate amount of assuring you that there is security, and still make it easy enough?”

In balancing security and user experience, there cannot be a trade-off

With fraud becoming increasingly common, costly, and complex for businesses to manage, simpler solutions seem to be a hit with consumers. Two-factor authentication (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) options, often involving the elusive SMS one-time passcode, are effective means of mitigating account theft and fraud. These tried-and-tested techniques come exceptionally close to nailing the ‘trust versus friction’ sweet spot.

Going forward, Burton advocates a departure from existing methods of customer identification. Rather than requiring customers to repeatedly prove their authenticity through interminable login rituals and security questions, he envisages a reciprocal digital relationship where companies recognise the customers within their online spaces from their behaviours, actions and patterns.

“It’s a model of continuous trust, creating a positive real-world experience in the digital world, where we are looking at a variety of factors in the background, but only asking you questions as you need them,” he says. Before making a purchase or transferring money customers are interacting in a digital space that feels personal, providing reassurance and connection with the brand identity. Burton continues: “It’s about how we appropriately model that in the digital world to maintain continuous trust across the entire digital consumer journey.”
Most brands incorporate trust as a core pillar of their value propositions in some way, shape or form. But advancements in digital infrastructure and the threats that come along with them mean businesses need to take stock of what this means in the context of an expanding digital economy.

If we ever suspect that a brand is abusing our trust in them … we move from advocate to adversary very quickly.

The challenge today for companies like Telesign is protecting people. Tomorrow’s challenge will be protecting devices and machines as the practical applications for digital identity become more mainstream. For example, the UK’s proposed digital ID scheme aims to make digital identities as secure as official identity documents. Available via a phone app or website, these could hold equal weight to passports and driver’s licences.

With this uptick in the prevalence of digital identities, continuous trust will be even more critical, says Burton. “Someone could be checking out online, but those checks still need to happen in the background. Ensuring that they are who they say they are, in a location where they are likely to be,” he says. “Using those historical behaviours and data points, it’s easier to spot unusual activity and prevent anything suspicious from becoming a problem.”

Ultimately enhanced digital trust profoundly impacts how consumers perceive and engage with a brand. Users are more likely to recommend a brand they implicitly trust, but customers who are required to jump through too many hoops to be assured complete security may reach a point of no return. No matter how wonderful the brand proposition or the product, convenience and compliance must be in lockstep. For Burton, the implications are clear: “If we ever suspect that a brand is abusing our trust in them, if we suspect they’re not safeguarding our personal information, we move from advocate to adversary very quickly.”

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