At least until such time as the singularity is upon us, the point of machines is to serve humans but until now, we have been enduring an early developmental stage in data processing technology – a time when our data processing tools are so primitive that they are like human babies, ruling our behaviour with their need for constant care and attention. We have had to accommodate the needs of our machines but in the future, our technology will be an understanding and supportive partner in our lives rather than an infantile tyrant.
The singularity may still be some considerable time away – but as the Tech Crunch article says, we are already in the era when technology can serve us with a much higher level of understanding of the things that make us human. We just have to design it that way. And we already know a lot about how to do that.
It is just a matter of time before consumer expectations force the investment of capital in humanistic design priorities.
There is a big scam in technology that is almost universally played by platform providers of all kinds – and we pretty much always just go along with it, undervaluing ourselves and making them richer at our personal expense.
It happened to me, just today when my mobile service provider sent me this SMS:
Based on yr last call to us, how likely r u to recommend [us] to a friend/colleague?
Why do they expect me to provide them with this information? Because I probably will. Because most people do (or enough do, to make the results statistically meaningful).
But why would I do that? What’s in it for me?
Well, there are some intrinsic motivations that could drive my response:
Great. Satisfaction of these intrinsic motives does sustain behaviour. The persistence of platform providers in trading on these motives is evidence of that fact. +play does the same thing in its gamification designs, hitching a ride on things that players are already primed to do by their intrinsic motivations.
Presumably, my response is of value to the provider. I doubt that they would go to the expense of asking for it, collecting the response, compiling it, interpreting it, etc., if it was worth nothing to them. And being a business, that boils down to it being worth money to them. So, what is my cut?
My mobile service provider is neither my friend, my family member nor a charity that I support. It does not fall into any category in my life to which I gladly donate my personal property. It is immeasurably financially richer than I am now or will ever be but by asking me help them improve their service, they are expecting me to make a donation to them! They pay their employees to make guesses as to what kind of service I want but they won’t give me any form of extrinsic value for giving them actual facts about it?
I think that is fundamentally disrespectful to me as a ‘valued customer’ and suggests that their view of me is actually just, ‘an asset to be exploited’. I know a mobile service provider is not an app but it reflects a highly prevalent attitude I see in technology providers of all types.
Listen guys, without me (and all your other customers), you wouldn’t exist. If our information and opinions are important to the sustainability of your business, acknowledge that in some meaningful way. We deserve better.
First things first, right?
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So, you have a great idea for a new service/app/whatever – let’s call it a ‘product’. What is the most important element to begin development with?
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What is the most important element to begin development with?
Why do I think that is the correct answer? Because that is where your idea connects with the actual customer, on the customer’s terms. It requires you to think about how and when the customer would use your product – and working through this is likely to get you thinking about why they would use it as well.
The most important thing in the world is people. This is obvious but often seems to be forgotten in a focus on material wealth. But without people, there would be no wealth; without customers, you do not have a business. If an app is listed on the app store and no-one downloads it, is it still an app?
Understanding (or at least having a theory about) how your product will fit into your customers’ lives will make a big difference to the sustained use of your product. Branding, marketing and distribution will all affect the rate of initial uptake but if the product does not fit the customers’s lives, meet their needs and expectations, they will not continue to use it unless they have no real choice (in which case, they are prisoners and will have a very dysfunctional relationship with you/your product).
I think the key concept here is empathy – understanding what it is like to be in the customer’s shoes when they are using your product. Research has found that both satisfaction and loyalty increase when you build empathic relationships with customers. The experience of being treated without empathy, being objectified, varies from mildly unpleasant to traumatic, depending on the nature of the relationship. But it is never a compelling experience.
Think about customers as people, make a serious effort understand their perspective and needs, and you will be well on the way to the sustained success of your product. Treating customers as people is good for business.
Workplace communication and collaboration startup Slack is putting the user first with their new SAAS pricing model – giving credit for reduced use of their service.
Because it’s not the norm yet, good user-centricity can still surprise and delight and in this article Steven Forth describes exactly that result arising from Slack’s new policy.
I was surprised and delighted to be working with a company that automatically gave me a credit for reduced use. It makes me more loyal to Slack, and more willing to commit to higher levels of subscription, as I trust they will be flexible and act in my best interests. [Emphasis mine – D]
It’s the Age of the Customer and companies who put their customers first will engender greater loyalty and trust. Slack have set the bar at a new level and I look forward to seeing more companies realise the value of delightful initiatives like this; it would be nice to see increasing competition over who can provide the most value to their customers.