In software or any customer-centric endeavor, human experience can be viewed as a user journey. Trust is certainly no exception.
When I began my career on Schneider Electric’s Digital Customer Experience team, we learned the high-level stages of our customer’s journey — Design, Build, Operate, and Maintain. Trust is a more straightforward journey — trust is built and trust is maintained. And, conversely, trust can be diminished or broken.
As Schneider employees working for a global, multinational company, remote work has been a part of our lives, even pre-pandemic. We are incredibly fortunate to work with customers and colleagues across all parts of our native countries, and from all over the world. And we know that building trust virtually can certainly be done — it’s an inevitable practice we’ve learned and will continually practice. However, building trust in person accelerates this process.
In the build phase of the trust journey, we are making assessments and consciously or unconsciously asking questions. Can I trust this person or team? Should I alter my path to follow them? In person, answering these questions can be quicker, more efficient, and more accurate.
Clarity and Alignment
With in-person connection, it can be easier to pursue a shared truth. Questions can be asked repeatedly until full clarity is reached without repercussion or shame. Have you ever left a virtual meeting, still unsure if you “get it?” Have you ever been embarrassed to ask the same question more than twice? With in-person communication, you can ask questions until you truly understand. You can use tools like whiteboards, your expressions, and your varied questions to pursue details. This allows you to gather facts, deeper understanding, and a shared view more quickly. You can better answer, do I understand what this person understands and do they understand me? Can I trust we’re moving forward together with clarity and possibly even alignment?
Leadership and Inspiration
In person, the holistic, whole view of your talents and personality can be exercised. There is so much more to who we are than what we type or communicate through a screen. The other evening, I was incredibly lucky to have Aamir Paul, President, North America Operations, stop by my desk. I was able to see firsthand how he inspires others — he told me an interesting anecdote about how he took his leadership team to an improv show. Why? To teach them about “rapid syncopation,” a term of which I’ve never heard previously — which I understood to be rapid understanding between people, regardless of language or scenario. He told me his reasoning, I asked questions, I was able to understand — and I was inspired. He was able to lead, and I saw, in some small way, how I can contribute and even follow suit. I was able to better answer, can I trust this person will lead me in the right direction?
Laughter and Emotional Connection
In person, you experience human emotion with full fidelity. Even at the most informal and vulnerable levels — sharing laughter and joy (or even tears) — you can express and comprehend unspoken bonding and messaging we’ve been sharing since the dawn of humanity, far greater than through a screen. It’s been said, there is no greater joy than experiencing it with someone else. Indeed, science shows we release chemicals related to human bonding when we laugh — sharing these moments in person give us their full fidelity. It helps us better answer the question, do I feel safe and relaxed enough to share a laugh or other emotional connection with this person? And can I let my guard down to make them laugh?
Transparency and Sincerity
In person, you’re able to better see if someone is being sincere. We can use our natural instincts to evaluate if someone is being transparent or if they might be omitting something, or worse, misleading someone. You can sense if someone is accurately representing what they’re actually feeling. Is our customer frustrated we’re not across the finish line yet? Are they relieved we solved the problem? Are they clear we answered the question? Can I trust what this person is telling me?
In the build phase of the trust journey, in person, you can leverage all of these human elements in real-time. And as much as we rely on it, virtual experience will always be secondary to the reality of real-time, human experience. By being in person, by leveraging the full fidelity of the human experience, you, your peers, and your customers can come away with more important answers that can only truly be achieved in real-time human interaction. By being in person, you accelerate the building of trust.
Felix Ramos is a Digital Product Manager in the Energy Management Software group. He currently manages the LayoutFAST application — software that makes designing in Building Information Modeling (BIM) faster and easier. Felix has been managing digital products, projects, and globally distributed teams for Schneider Electric since 2014. He is passionate about user experience, digital innovation, as well as building and leading agile teams. Felix is based in Boston and, in his spare time, is an avid golfer, runner, and volunteer for causes supporting communities of opportunity and animal welfare.