Before you even start conducting user research or creating mock-ups and prototypes, there’s one thing you absolutely must have: your customer’s trust.
As a field, UX exists to help uncover and solve problems. In order to do that, we need organizations and the people in them to trust in our ability to deliver the right solutions that will help them achieve their mission and goals.
Without it, you will have a much harder time getting access to users for tests, conducting necessary research, navigating organizational politics and relationships in order to reach decisions, and more. So, how is trust built?
How to Build Trust with Customers and Among Your UX Team
Trust begins with caring and understanding. I’m using those words—as opposed to empathy—because, in my opinion, “empathy” has become such an over-used buzzword in our field it’s all but lost its meaning.
If you want your customer’s vote of confidence, you have to demonstrate that you genuinely care about and understand their problems—and their customers’ problems, too. Only then can you hope to create successful outcomes for both. To help you build the foundations of trust with your new customers, keep these three things in mind:
Focus on the value you’re bringing to your customer
The value you add to your customer’s project and organization goes beyond a discovery document, a set of wireframes, or a prototype. Those are just the tools you use to understand a problem space.
The real value lies in using those tools to uncover and articulate your customer’s challenges and find ways to align their goals with their audiences’ needs. By focusing on the value-add behind the tools you’re using to attain the improvements, you’re nearly guaranteed to create a stronger final product.
It’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re in the weeds analyzing research findings or working out the user interface of a screen, however. When that happens, take a step back and ask: “How will this solve the bigger challenge the customer is facing?” When you frame it this way when discussing potential solutions, it will go a long way in building confidence that you are solving their real needs.
Start small and build from there
Clients can be hesitant (and rightly so) to invest large amounts of time and money on big UX activities—especially if they don’t fully understand what they’re paying for. To show the value UX can provide, start off with something small. Make sure it’s a problem or question that the customer cares about.
Even if the initial problem or question doesn’t solve the big picture problem, that small win can open the door to tackle larger challenges. Each challenge tackled and problem solved will continue to build trust and strengthen the relationship. Design, especially UX design, is a long game—it’s focused on outcomes rather than deliverables.
A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.— Simon Sinek
Build trust and consensus among your own team
We’re never working solo on a project. Thinking of our clients, their audience, and our colleagues as a collective team can go a long way to helping create successful outcomes.
This means not only feeling confident your team will follow through with what needs to be done, but also ensuring everyone actively contributes to creating an environment in which collaboration, sharing ideas, and seeking advice is encouraged. Otherwise, no one will feel comfortable pushing the boundaries of what they think is possible.
As a UX professional, you help your customers solve their most challenging problems, creating experiences that work for both their business and their users. Without caring, understanding, and trust, none of that would be possible. So before you kick off your next project, ask yourself: does your customer trust you?