Trust is the foundation of most new tech companies. If people didn’t have trust in these companies, they wouldn’t be able to use Uber or list their house on Airbnb. Or even purchase shoes from Zappos. UrbanSitter sets the bar even higher: It connects families with babysitters on the Internet. Few things require more faith than this.
“In many ways, we’re tackling the service that requires the most trust in someone’s life,” says UrbanSitter CEO Lynn Perkins. “If companies can duplicate what we have done in other sectors they will be able to knock it out of their park.”
How did UrbanSitter achieve this feat? How did they create a product that parents can trust to watch their children while they are away? Perkins is an expert in this field, pointing out a combination of product features, logistics, and customer service efforts that has allowed them to be a reliable solution for hundreds upon thousands of households across the country. She shares her unique interview with UrbanSitter about how they approach trust-building and what other companies can do to grow quickly.
Identify the needs of your users
Attention spans are short for people. Your website has limited real estate. It is important to understand what information you can instantly display to users in order to make them feel that you are listening. How can you show them you are an expert and worth their trust?
Perkins says, “The best way is to identify your ideal user.” Perkins says that a parent with a need for a babysitter is the ideal user. You can make it as broad as you like, but first, you must know their profile so that you can decide what information you should give them.
She continues, saying, “People may have different needs but you should try and figure out the top three scenarios and then answer them as quickly as possible.” This will help people feel that you are the best product for their needs.
Customers use UrbanSitter for several reasons. They need to find a babysitter quickly and are short on time. To answer all of these questions, UrbanSitter immediately shows you available sitters, their average response times, their price ranges, and –using Facebook Connect (https://overeview.io) –stack ranks the sitters based on your degree of connection, so your friends’ sitters are shown first.
Brand equity is built when trust is developed. This should be your goal.
Borrow Trust Anywhere You Can
UrbanSitter has seen a significant increase in its success thanks to Facebook Connect. With other networks such as LinkedIn and Google offering similar services that port users’ information, startups have more options to use social graphs.
Perkins said that “the way we use people’s social graphs was one of our greatest differentiators.” He also stated that they are working to make it possible to show LinkedIn connections. When it comes to trusting babysitters, recommendations from friends and family are the most important. You are more likely to trust someone you know if they have had a good experience with a babysitter. The second tier could be your co-workers or parents with children attending the same school. This scale of social proof is extremely influential.”
UrbanSitter asks parents a few questions when they sign up for the site, such as which parenting groups they belong to, such as a local mom’s club, a specific PTA, or even nearby museums that may be of significance to them.
Perkins says, “When parents see that other parents in a group they respect or belong to have used a babysitter, it’s persuasive information.” These groups are crucial because they have already built trust and will be important when we launch in new cities. They are lending us brand credibility so that new users can trust us.”
A user can search for a sitter by using Facebook. They are also presented with names and certifications of sitters who have been hired by other groups. “We’ll add to the search listing that a sitter is CPR trained at a class that was held at DayOne, which is a parenting organization that people in the Bay Area would likely know. In Los Angeles, the Pump Station is similarly credible, and so on.”
“Trust travels through channels, and certain channels have more meaning than others.”
“This does not mean that we should overload sitter profiles with too much information. Perkins says that trust building is as much about keeping your eyes on the prize. No matter what business you are in, you should start with the data points that show expertise for the target group. You can then increase the amount of information that you share with them by having people click on your profile.
UrbanSitter started by connecting people on Facebook but grew to include group affiliations. They then expanded their efforts to gather testimonials and reviews of influential parenting bloggers, who have a loyal readership. You can absorb the trust of followers if a blogger has a following who writes about their experience with your product.
Ratings are not the only metric you should use
UrbanSitter’s average ratings and reviews are vital data. They allow the company to identify great sitters as well as flag those who are not performing well. However, they aren’t the only data that drives user decisions. You can use other metrics to tailor your service and show that you anticipate user needs. UrbanSitter, for example, emphasizes the response time of sitters (something that UrbanSitter records and requires no additional work from users).
Perkins says, “If I’m searching for someone last-minute, it’s really helpful for me to know upfront if someone with a great rating might take more than 24 hours to reply.” “On the other hand, if another person has a great rating, and responds within an hour, that’s also perfect.
Although the company aims to offer a mixture of subjective and quantitative data, they also know that many decisions are made based on numbers. The most important stats include the number of ratings a sitter holds — which gives a better idea of how accurate it is — and “Repeat Families,” which indicates how many families the sitter has worked with multiple times.
Perkins says, “If someone has 5 or more repeat family members, it indicates that they are a good sitter.” People are sensitive to the experiences of their children, so inviting someone back makes everything go very smoothly. This way, although someone may only have a few reviews, you can see five from repeat families and feel confident in their abilities.
This can also be helpful for the sitter side. It is a sign that someone has worked for the same family several times. This indicates that they were paid the agreed amount, that the environment was safe and that overall the experience was positive. These are the main concerns that sitters have before accepting a job. They can be easily addressed by giving this information.
Perkins states that while star ratings are the most important aspect of marketplace companies, adding more information about your service can increase expertise. Uber also estimates the distance between your current location and cabs, as well as showing you their average star rating. Consignment furniture service Move Loot has a standard system to show the quality of goods. This is an important part of understanding your customers.
Let People Be Human
UrbanSitter was available before video profiles were introduced for sitters. It was a game-changer.
Perkins says, “Suddenly, the video gave the site a three-dimensional feel.” “Before the introduction of video profiles were flat. Although you could view the data and review the reviews, you never felt like you really knew the person.
“Hearing someone speak for two minutes about themselves is very powerful.”
She cites one sitter, a young woman named Peri, who used her video profile to sing a song she wrote about why she would make an excellent babysitter. You immediately notice that she is a warm and creative person who will be able to get along with children.
Two other benefits of launching videos were also evident. People felt more confident booking sitters last-minute, even though they couldn’t interview them in person beforehand. The second was that less experienced sitters saw an increase in business.
Perkins says that “our less experienced and less well-respected sitters were not getting as many bookings due to the competition.” “But once we added the video option on profiles, they started getting far more job opportunities.” Perkins points out one sitter who saw an increase in bookings after she uploaded a video about her training to become a pediatrician. A short video can give you an idea of the abilities of a sitter.
The company often claims that its sitters speak for them. UrbanSitter’s positive press coverage is due to the fact that they host events in new cities, where parents (including mom bloggers) can meet their sitters face-to-face. Perkins says, “We believe in putting our best foot forward and showcasing the sitters.” Online products can be compelling and complete, but they can’t replace the human connection. Therefore, it is important to enhance that whenever possible.
She says, “Don’t be afraid of trying unscalable things that will improve your brand and build trust in a new marketplace,”
Lynn Perkins has over 15 years of experience in building and growing internet services for consumers. She was previously the founder and CEO at Xuny and VP for Business Development at Bridge path.
Influence and Marry Quality
UrbanSitter has always been able to demonstrate remarkable quality, which was crucial for its expansion plan. UrbanSitter’s protocol for expanding into new markets is almost complete. However, it starts by curating an amazing supply of sitters.
Perkins says, “We knew that if we wanted to succeed, people would have to not only have great experiences but also be able to use the service.” UrbanSitter did extensive interviews to find the right caretakers and ensured that only the best people were chosen for the initial group. The second step is to introduce these sitters and their parents to the amazing connected parents in the region.
She says, “We wanted people of influence to see what UrbanSitter was all about.” “What we discovered was that it took a very small number of sitters, and a small number of well-connected parents to get things moving.”
The best way to get started is to go hyper-local. UrbanSitter launched first in Brooklyn, and then let word of mouth spread throughout the metro.
“Start with the most connected users wherever your users are concentrated.”
When you first enter a market, you should aim to impress people and encourage engagement. Perkins says. Perkins says, “First, you’ll get that ‘Wow’ factor. If you can do that over and over, it will make your brand stick with people.” People will be more likely to trust you if they have a quality experience.
UrbanSitter also uses the same idea of combining quality with influence when it comes to its online marketing. The Like button was added to sitter profiles by UrbanSitter so customers could share their experiences with sitters. Individual success stories of sitters are more appealing to potential users than the general advertising copy. The influence of any of these stories is even greater when they are connected to Facebook friends.
Perkins says, “This is a great idea if your brand doesn’t feel as personal as the people who provide the service.” People connect more with others. When you click on the profile, you can see the face of your sitter. They are amazing and you assume that there will be other great sitters.
It is important to maintain your users’ trust in you and the quality of your service. Your service providers should have all the tools necessary to do a great job. UrbanSitter sends sitters text messages minutes before they start a job, with information such as “the five things you will be the best sitter ever” and other useful information.
Also, the company started early in building its user operations team. They are able to take a proactive approach in how they address user concerns and intercept them. The company will reach out to a sitter immediately if they are unable to provide a job. Users can communicate with them via email or phone, depending on their needs. This makes it easy for people to feel loved and cared for.
You must also be proactive in addressing existing problems. You must take immediate action if things don’t go according to plan. Perkins says she once booked a Zipcar, and a half an hour before she picked it up they called to tell her it had been in an accident. They asked Perkins where she was located and pointed out cars closer to her. They offered her the same price for those cars, even though they were more expensive. A good plan for damage prevention is essential to building trust.
Give users control
Perkins says, “When you want to gain consumer trust quickly, I believe the best way to do that is to allow them to control their experience with your site and service.” Perkins says, “If they know what they are looking for, make sure it’s easy for them to locate it.”
UrbanSitter does this by giving users detailed options and not just pointing to one sitter. They offer different filters that allow users to narrow down their search. They even allow users to filter down further if they wish, so parents can choose a caregiver who speaks French and another language.
Perkins says that data tracking and consistent user behavior can help you get a better idea of how to empower users. “Understanding how people use your product allows you to pinpoint what they really want.”
Perkins and her team believed that parents would look for sitters if their regular sitter was unavailable. It turned out that parents preferred to book the friends of the sitters they liked. After realizing that people were searching organically for other sitters, the company modified the product to show friends of sitters who were also using the site.
Perkins says, “It was a random signal of trust for us” that people loved their sitters enough that they would prefer to find someone like them than someone their friends would recommend. Perkins says, “I believe that this is a very accurate representation of the experience people have when they search for sitters the old-fashioned way.” They will probably ask the person if they know anyone from high school.” This is why it makes sense that your site should have mechanisms that are similar to real life in order to foster trust.
Perkins points to Goodreads as another site that takes advantage of this online-offline phenomenon. It uses your social network to recommend books and help you discover new books from friends. This is exactly what you would do in real life. Goodreads has become a trusted source for great books because of the buzz it generates.
Pinpoint Decision Drivers
Perkins states, “Once your ideal users have been defined and basic functionality has been developed, it’s now time to be more specific about how people use your service.” You should list all the possible concerns that they might have, and then provide the data to address them. This is how trust can be built on a deeper level.
People might think your service is great, but they might still be skeptical if they haven’t heard of someone using it or haven’t spoken to anyone who has. This is where data can be used to your advantage. “It builds credibility, when we can tell X number parents from your kid’s school or mom’s group, have used UrbanSitter.” Users can begin to see themselves as satisfied with UrbanSitter.
These data points should not be taken as a guessing game. Strategic opportunities should be taken to ask people about their interests and change of mind.
We can see data about how people use our website and find out how many people book sitters within 24 hours. We also know how long people browsed our site. We also ask when we can. After completing a transaction, we ask them if UrbanSitter would be recommended to a friend. We ask them why they would recommend UrbanSitter to a friend if they are willing. We ask them why they left the site and what they were searching for if they don’t book.
Perkins and her colleagues discovered that people are browsing more than they thought. The next version of the website will make booking and browsing even more simple.
Don’t make your life difficult, but also your service
Trust is a belief that a company will act in your best interests, even if you are a paying customer. UrbanSitter understands this and has made it its primary goal to make finding childcare easy, quick, and stress-free.
UrbanSitter charges parents their credit cards and transfers the funds to the sitter. There is no need to open a wallet to figure out how much to tip or how much to pay. This makes it much easier for both parties to have a pleasant experience.
Perkins states, “We find that most sitters don’t feel comfortable asking for a higher rate, and a lot more parents don’t know if they tip on a regular basis — only 20% do.” “We can tell them the average rates and take the mystery out of this part of your evening.
You can also show your expertise by reducing friction. Your customer doesn’t need to worry because you have all the answers.
Similar ideas have been used by other successful businesses.ZapposFamously, customers can order multiple pairs of shoes and then return any that they don’t like for free. This makes it easy and convenient to purchase shoes online and saves time and money. AndOnline shopping is now possible without any hesitation.
“If a customer is relieved of their hesitation by something you do they win.”
Child clothing and toy company Zulily is another champion in this category. Let’s suppose you buy a few items for an infant girl. Now all the suggestions you get from them are focused on buying for the child that you’re buying. They seem to know everything. This makes you feel more connected to the company as they seem to understand you and can help you find what you want.
Your friction reduction efforts will be more effective if you are creative. Perkins states that you suddenly appear more user-friendly than you are thinking. This is one of the reasons UrbanSitter pursued co-promotions with companies like Opentable. The company knew that many of their customers are tech-savvy parents who want to plan a night out and offered great deals on babysitting as well as great meals.
Invest in content marketing
Content marketing can help you to establish expertise in a specific field. UrbanSitter’s articles cover all aspects of childcare. UrbanSitter even interviews parents and sitters to find out what makes sitting easier and better.
Perkins says, “We might write something similar to the top 10 questions to interview a babysitter during an interview.” These articles help parents find our website and build brand awareness. They also convert them into customers.
UrbanSitter isn’t only a platform for parenting bloggers. It also offers content through newsletters, partnerships, and advertising. UrbanSitter makes connections with schools to find partnerships with trusted organizations so they can gain some of the trust.
Perkins says, “While this may seem unscalable, it really helps to build brand awareness.” “Once we reach word-of-mouth, we can begin to use paid search and Facebook ads as well as SEO and other things such as this.”
GoPro is a great example of content marketing done right. This company uses user-generated content to promote its brand of cameras on YouTube. A recent video showing a user swimming among jellyfish schools received more than 2 million views. GoPro has received more views than ever and is now one of the most popular YouTube brands.
Content marketing is important, but it’s crucial that you don’t overdo it. Perkins states that spamming can quickly cause damage to your service and network. We leverage Facebook so heavily and have all the information about who you are connected to. Because of this, we take great care to ensure that we don’t misuse it. I would also advise other companies to do the same.
Privacy concerns can be a deterrent. You must balance your need to access user information with your desire for it to be used to your benefit.
Turn Users Into Ambassadors
Perkins says, “The best thing you can do for a user is to make them a referrer. That means that they have had an amazing experience.” Uber users are a large percentage of those who have been introduced to the service by friends. It is extremely valuable.
A recent study by Nielsen shows that word of mouth recommendations from family and friends spur the highest levels of action. This effect should be your top goal.
You can make word-of-mouth sharing easy by integrating social media capabilities into your product. Perkins says, “You want it to be as simple as possible for people to share their experiences with your brand.” It makes your brand more visible and it is easier to attract organic referrals.
UrbanSitter created a “give to get” program in order to capture referrals. UrbanSitter offers free babysitting credit to families who recommend the service to others. This has been a great way for the company to acquire new customers.
Perkins says, “You want it to be seamless.” The more you convince people to share your product because they have had a positive experience, the lower the cost of getting a new customer. This is trust. They trust you so deeply that they are willing to share their experiences with others. That’s what ultimately will help grow your business.