Tag: Empathy

According to a recent article in Tech Crunch, anyway. And we agree.

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.

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We’ve been banging on a bit around here lately about what is and is not gamification, so its great to see something published that definitely qualifies as gamification as we know it. The added bonus is that it lays out a general method for gamification design in its pristine glory for all to see. (The devil, of course, is in the detail – you can do all this and still get it wrong. But this is how to go about it with some chance of getting it right).

What specifically does it get right? Well, pretty much everything but in particular we liked seeing:

  1. It starts with people and correctly identifies the over-arching power of interpersonal relationships as something to be recognised, respected and leveraged. Sure, it objectifies people as ‘players’ and ‘personas’ but it does think about their inherent motivations, suggesting Bartle’s useful analysis as a framework. (Amy Jo Kim has some useful things to say on this as well).
  2. It defines objectives. It could do more to specify how these need to be actual, observable player behaviours but I think you can read that between the lines.

Wrap this methodology in a snug blanket of empathy and integrity and you’ve got a good basis for doing some meaningful and effective gamification. Which, of course, does not involve turning everything into a game, or even a game-like experience.

Read Adrish Bera’s sweet little post and enjoy. Thanks Adrish.

First things first, right?

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?

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.

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Unfairness has been described as “relationship poison” in a study of customer relationships, aggravating conflict, opportunism and undermining the relationship management benefits of contracts.

People’s sense of fairness is innate and has been demonstrated in a wide range of sciences from genetics to primate behaviour.  The feeling of being treated unfairly is instinctive and powerful and can lead to extreme results [1] (although different people react differently to unfairness).

So, do you treat your end-users fairly?

More importantly, do your end-users perceive that you treat them fairly?

Here are ten reasons why you should and how you can show respect for your users that will pay off in the long run.

  1. Your user’s attention is an asset that deserves compensation.
    People can only pay attention to one thing at a time (don’t believe all that nonsense about multi-tasking). That means that paying attention to you comes at a cost to the user – not being able to pay attention to something else. That is an opportunity cost and has value to the user. If you compensate the user for that value, they will feel that you are treating them fairly. They might even realise that others just rudely grab their attention (advertising, anyone?) and that you are much more respectful.
  2. Your user’s information is an asset that deserves compensation.
    In order to achieve your objectives, you probably need information from your user – their shoe size, their email address, their credit card details, etc. This information belongs to them. If you offer them compensation for the use of that information, they will feel that you are treating them fairly. They might even realise that others just rudely grab demand their information (user registration forms, anyone?) and that you are much more respectful.
  3. Your user’s commitment is an asset that deserves compensation.
    The first date is one thing but by itself, ultimately empty and unfulfilling. Having a second or third date means something more. Beyond that is where the real value lies. You don’t get that far without reciprocity. You just don’t. If your user honours you with a repeat encounter, respect that by giving them something in return (narcissists please note, your mere presence is not actually enough).
  4. You are not the reason why the user gets up in the morning – support their life, don’t try to drive it.
    (Another one for the narcissists). Your offering might be wonderful but it is probably not the centre of your user’s life. They will have given it a place in their world because they would like it to help them through the day in some way – but that is all. Don’t expect them to change their lifestyle or do hours of study or training to use your product, unless changing lifestyle, studying or training is the whole point of the product. Be their butler, not their boss.
  5. You are a guest – be a good guest
    Your users have invited you into their personal spaces. Mind your manners, don’t interrupt, take off your shoes at the door. Be entertaining, responsive and offer to help without getting in the way. Be a good listener. Don’t offer your advice or opinion unless it is asked for. You want them to look forward to your next visit, not dread it.
  6. Users take a risk with you – honour their trust in you.
    Running with the ‘delightful guest’ metaphor, don’t leave your hosts feeling they should be careful what they say in your presence and count the silverware after you have left the room. You really do want to be invited back – they might even bring out the good stuff next time. Maybe one day they will ask you to be a godparent.
  7. Speak the user’s language.
    It is probably not C++, XML or Swift. Nor legalese, medicalese or psychobabble. Half of the population of developed countries has no more than Level 2 literacy skills [2] so requirements of vocabulary, sentence length and complexity, etc. need to be limited.  Is the language you are using even the user’s first language? Addressing someone with language that they do not understand suggests that you do not truly want to communicate with them – not a good way to win friends and influence people.
  8. Allow the users to express themselves.
    You are not the only person in the room and certainly not the most important one. It is not all about you (hello again, narcissists) – it is about your user. Let them actively participate. Let them be a co-creator of the outcomes. Then your offering becomes partly their offering. Then you have ‘ownership’ and engagement.
  9. Listen to what the users tell you.
    Ask for feedback in a way that makes it seem like you mean it – and respond to that feedback, promptly and gratefully. They went to the trouble to give you information (one of their assets – see number 2 above), so you owe them for that. Acknowledge the user’s contribution to improvements, don’t just take all the credit for yourself. If you want to be a masterful listener, don’t wait for the user to speak up: closely observe their behaviour and modify your designs to better match it. You’ve got the user on the dance-floor – now let them lead and you be the expert follower.

[1] ^ Tripp, T.M. & Bies, R.J. (in press). “Doing justice”: The role of motives for revenge in the workplace. In M. Ambrose & R. Cropanzano (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Justice in Work Organizations. Oxford University Press.

[2] ^ Using the OECD scale of 5 proficiency levels; http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/Skills%20volume%201%20(eng)–full%20v12–eBook%20(04%2011%202013).pdf

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  1. “I’ll have that one, please.”
  2. “Umm. I don’t know. Which one do you recommend?”
  3. “Oh, this is too hard. ‘Bye.”

Three common consumer responses when offered a choice, three different responses to the burden of choice.

Yes, choice imposes a burden. Sometimes this burden is a pleasurable effort, sometimes it is challenging. Sometimes, it is just too hard, causing irritation and provoking disengagement.

More than 40 years ago, Alvin Toffler wrote in his book Future Shock:

“Ironically, the people of the future may suffer not from an absence of choice, but from a paralyzing surfeit of it. They may turn out to be the victims of that peculiar super-industrial dilemma: ‘Overchoice.'” – Future Shock, p.264.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz explored this idea further in his book The Paradox of Choice (watch his TED Talk here), where he highlights the fallacy that more choice means more freedom. Choice enables us to exercise our free will, affirming our existence as autonomous individuals rather than slaves to a predetermined destiny. But too much choice can be paralysing and reduce satisfaction, even with optimal choices.

Some choice is good, too much choice is bad. Referring to this cartoon by Peter Steiner, Schwartz says that “everybody needs a fishbowl” to limit their choices to a manageable quantity.

Although information technology has in many ways made the avalanche of overwhelming choice possible, used smartly, technology also has the potential to relieve people from the burden of too much choice.

A key gamification design principle is that of ‘meaningful choice’. Meaningful choice involves presenting the consumer with a limited set of options, each one of which represents the expression of some value and each of which leads to distinctly different consequences. Meaningful choice presents the consumer with a decision that is anchored in their self-concept. The choice made is a form of self-expression – and people are generally motivated to express themselves through their actions. Game developers have found that providing meaningful choice is an important part of building and maintaining engagement.

This is why at +play, we make empathy with consumers a key design parameter. Empathy for the burden that choice can impose and a related effort to understand exactly which choices this consumer would welcome at this time so that they can say, “I’ll have that one, please. Where do I pay?” Commercially, true engagement is measurable at the cash register – so having empathy for the consumer is a good way of showing empathy for the client!