Bobby Nyotta and Christopher Tang
Transparency is critical component in trust and technology can help build trust. For instance, police officers in the United States are beginning to wear body cameras so that they can record different incidents to improve the trust from the public and officer accountability. Besides the public sector, service businesses such as baby sitting, restaurant, delivery services, and even senior care home services can leverage technology to improve trust and even perceived service quality.
By using live cameras to show the cooking operations, researchers at Harvard Business School and University College London found that customers perceived the quality of the service is better. This is exactly the strategy that the Michelin award winning dumpling restaurant Din Tai Fung has adopted: customers can see how the chefs prepare their meals through a glass kitchen. This works well when customers are present physically during the "production process" of the service. Will this work when customers are not present? You bet.
In the UK, customers can track the status of their pizza orders on their mobile phones. Better yet, the GPS technology has enabled customers in the US to track the real-time location of Pizza Hut's delivery person. In 2016, you can track the real-time location of your cable repairman who is on the way to your home just like your Uber driver. UPS is another company that may offer this service to improve the customer experience. But does it really matter if users can track the status and process of their service?
For these types of services, it is likely that the effect is mostly psychological because customers can easily verify the outcome. For example, it is easy to confirm if your pizza arrived on time or if your cable repairman came. However, transparency into the process really matters for other types of services where customers cannot easily verify the outcome. For example, consider senior care home service, customers cannot easily verify if the care provider took great care of their elderlies. Did the care provider feed my ailing mother on time? Did they give her the correct medicine and dosage on time? Did they take her for a walk through her favorite garden? This is where technology can help. With web cameras, GPS technology, and real-time, mobile updates, service providers can earn their customers' trust.
This is exactly how Wag! markets their dog walking services. By showing the photos of different dog walkers for the customers to choose from, by scheduling the exact time their dog to be walked, by showing the real-time map about the route taken by the their dog and the Wag! walker, pet owners have full transparency into the service (Figure below on the left). Better yet, Wag walkers even show you the “Report Card” of the walk, so owners can see how far and how long your dog walked and if they went to the bathroom (Figure below on the right). Who knows, perhaps the new virtual reality can even enable you to walk your dog virtually with the webcam!
Bottom line, engaging customers virtually using technology is a winning strategy in any service business!
 Buell, R., T. Kim, and C.J. Tsay, "Creating Reciprocal Value Through Operational Transparency." Management Science (forthcoming) and https://hbr.org/2014/11/cooks-make-tastier-food-when-they-can-see-their-customers