Unless you’ve personally met millions of people, first hand human interaction at the level of a widely used software application is an abstract study in anticipation. Software usage being a one on one interaction between a person and a machine interface rules out one to many crowds, such as performances or speaking engagements as relative to the design of user interaction.
There are no human social interaction patterns which offer a direct parallel with software usage.
Another aspect of the problem solved in user interaction design is the simple truth that the machine doesn’t care about the emotional context of the user. Careers are built in certain roles of almost any company on the ability to leverage excellent social practices, and present a high level of customer service. For many sectors of the economy, quality social interaction is a component of credibility. A software application could care less if the user is having a bad day, the best day of their life, is rude or warm and friendly. And if the user becomes impatient, it’s difficult to impress a machine to work faster based on negative motivational techniques.
However, from the user perspective, a software application that mirrors the cold, hardness of the world is far more likely to foster disconnection than an application that conveys positive qualities many of us like to see when we’re trying to get something done with a level of expediency that allows us to move on to tasks we’d rather be doing. Emotional conveyance, expediency, the sense that a task will be completed successfully, and credibility all matter to the success of a software application and the ability to engage and retain users.
Effective techniques for understanding and quantifying the success of the user experience have evolved as tools to ensure effective software design. Among the choices for immersion within the ecosystem of a software product, being part of the user interaction journey without also becoming conspicuous is an option that offers many levels of insight.
As a rideshare driver for both Lyft and Uber, I found myself in the midst of the end user’s experience for over 8000 people in cases of single use, or multiple users up to groups of six people. While there have been several techniques to learn and perfect in dealing with riders for various scenarios that emerge during which the rider – driver interaction can be effected in either a good way, or deteriorate, my prevailing experience with people in general has been enormously positive. In fact, out of those 8000 people (a conservative estimate), I can count only ten of them I would never want to see again, and of those probably only seven actually got into my car. That’s a very low percentage of poor experiences with the general public – bounded by people who have at least one credit card.
I admit that I wasn’t hoping to have a very nice time dealing with the public, and I have been surprised and delighted continually to have so much fun with most of my riders. There are a few things I’ve discovered, however, as an effort to offer the best possible customer service, which I think have translated into my rating from riders which is currently 4.93, but has been as high as 4.97 for several months in succession.
In my experience, my most powerful technique will probably come as no surprise to professionals who seek to to position a company in the best possible light in view of its customers. When a rider enters my car, as often as possible, I turn to see them face to face, make eye contact with a genuine smile, and ask their name. While this is a safety precaution to ensure the person is the correct rider, it also sets the tone for the trip and starts the interaction in the best possible light. Then after a few moments when the trip is underway, I ask how their day is shaping up as a genuine inquiry into their welfare. Among the reasons I rate a rider 5 stars is the occasional person who asks me about my day before I have asked them. It’s a simple question, and such a lovely social skill.
When a representative of a company offering services of any kind extends a positive initiation to a customer interaction, rather than waiting for the customer to do it, or not doing it at all, it sets the tone for the interaction. In my case, I decided that as long as I was going to spend the time, however long or limited, in my car that day, I may as well do my best to make sure I had a positive interaction with as many people as possible. I am certain this is the better part of the reason for my high rating as a driver. Making effort pays off.
In my view, it is possible to embed the same positive interactive cues into well designed software, with a similar result.