You’ve probably heard of, or even experienced, the popular team-building exercise, Trust Fall. In this game, a person deliberately allows themselves to fall backward, trusting that their partner catches them. Simple, right?

Let’s consider another aspect of the exercise. Imagine that your partner is much smaller than you. You may trust that the person will reach out to catch you, but are you confident in their strength or ability to lift you up?

As governments work to build a new social contract with citizens in the digital era, it’s important to consider the distinction between trust and confidence – and work to build both.


Design for trust. Build with confidence.

Digital services and data sharing is often measured in terms of levels of trust. Trust in something or someone is often the product of a collection of experiences over time. But perhaps the more relevant issue is how much confidence people have in the competency of a government agency to perform its duties.

Confidence, on the other hand, is variable, contextual, personal and more easily expressed in the value delivered. A low level of confidence may be sufficient for a digital transaction or data exchange to occur if the perceived value outweighs the risk. More importantly, it is possible for a service or exchange to occur based on relative confidence, even when there are doubts concerning mutual trust.

For example, consumers may not have a high level of trust in commercial businesses. After all, it’s often a buyer beware relationship. But they are confident that by allowing businesses to store credit card information and other personal information on digital platforms, these businesses will use it to offer value through convenience and personalised services.


Creating value-based public services

A recent Accenture global citizen survey found that 62 percent of citizens expect public service organisations to use innovative technologies and solutions to improve service delivery. Yet, they don’t trust how agencies use their personal information.

To overcome this challenge, public agencies might benefit from taking a value-based approach to digital services. Public agencies have a duty to ensure people do not unknowingly harm or disadvantage themselves by sharing information about themselves. This illustrates the mutual obligation principle when considering personal data-sharing as a component within a new social contract for the digital age.

Rather than solely aiming for the high bar or a trusted relationship, government agencies should instead focus on giving people confidence at each and every interaction. In other words, the value of digital engagement and data sharing should be both understood and experienced.

This requires a logical separation of (1) the transactional components of government service delivery and (2) the high value, human interaction-based services needed to address the complexity in people’s live. Their confidence in a digital service offer will influence how they consume the service, even when it doesn’t align with the level of trust they have in the service provider.


Experience influences behavior

When dealing with complex problems where human interaction is paramount, people’s level of trust in the service provider will influence their behaviour within the service system. People with complex problems can and will still consume transactional services. Trust can build over time with positive transactional service experiences. With trust, better outcomes will follow.

A simple illustration is someone required to regularly report income and job search activity.  The person finds the easy-to-use mobile application convenient as the immediate feedback they receive provides them with confidence they have complied with their obligations.  They may still lack trust through concerns the information they provide is shared with other agencies for background compliance checking.   The more they use the mobile application without negative consequences, their trust in the agency can grow.

Public leaders can start regaining public trust by creating an environment of confidence in the capability and intent of their agencies to fulfill their obligations. In customer service literature, this is called “moments of truth.” In the digital world, these confidence-building moments of truth are crucial for restoring public trust in government to deliver the services that people need.

Let’s continue the conversation. Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Brian Lee-Archer

Managing Director – Consulting, Health & Public Service, ANZ

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