Posts tagged “interpersonal”

Building Rapport With Users Is Building Rapport With People

We use specific techniques to build rapport in user research, but of course those techniques work to build rapport in other situations. Here’s two great examples of rapport in relationships that map quite closely to rapport in fieldwork.

Caution: Stuffed Shirts Ahead [NYT]

Instead, miss no opportunity to chat congenially with your new colleagues — lunch, coffee, the proverbial water cooler, whatever. But remember, these conversations aren’t about you. Though you don’t want to seem evasive, avoid leaping into a happy reminiscence about foosball tournaments with your delightful former colleagues.

Think of the process as the workplace equivalent of politicians’ “listening tours” during the run-up to election season. Don’t ask, “So what’s it like to work here?” or “Do you like it here?” or anything else that requires a point-blank value judgment. Ask neutral questions like, “So how long have you worked here?” Then keep quiet.

People love to talk about themselves, and if you can signal that you’re actually interested in what they’re saying — and not merely waiting for your turn to talk — most will do it all day long. (One of the oldest interview tricks that reporters use is silence: There’s a human tendency to fill a conversational void, so let the other person do it.) In addition to signaling that you’re going to fit in, you’ll likely pick up useful clues to help you do precisely that.

It may take a little patience, but you’ll gradually be able to piece together what you need to know about how this new environment works — and who among your new colleagues has the same kind of sensibility as yours. Remember that even if the company is formal and bureaucratic, chances are that at least some of the people who work there are, in fact, agreeable human beings — the kind who like doughnuts.

5 ways to build a good relationship with anyone [The Week]

I picked up a copy of an underground indie best-seller called It’s Not All about Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone. The author, Robin Dreeke, is in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s elite Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program. Robin combines hard science and years of work in the field to offer practical tips to build rapport and establish trust.

  1. Ask them questions.
  2. Don’t be a conversation dictator.
  3. Allow them to talk.
  4. Genuinely try to understand their thoughts and opinions.
  5. Leave your ego at the door.

Rapport building

Friend-of-a-friend Elizabeth Rubenstein took this awesome picture at our local Safeway.

I’m always amazed to see the backstage on display where those of us who are frontstage can see it (see another Safeway example here). In this example we’ve got two separate Rapport Topics Of The Day:

  • How do you like todays (sic) weather?
  • How do you think the Giants baseball team is doing?

Safeway has a long history of awkwardly conceived inauthentic rapport-building techniques, such as the one I wrote about back in 2002 where staffers would hold onto my receipt for a painfully long time while they tried to puzzle out the pronunciation of my name, before handing it back after muttering “Thank you, Mr. Portugal.”

For what it’s worth, they seem to have got better with the name thing, and I haven’t been asked any false-note questions about the weather or the Local Sports Team.

Other Safeway goodies from the past:

(Thanks to Jen Lum)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • GameCrush: Pay to play–with girls [CNET] – The website GameCrush pays girls to play video games and live-chat with gamers who pay for the privilege. It's the gaming equivalent of buying a girl a drink to chat her up, the developers say. A Player (yes, they're called "Players") buys points–500 cost $8.25–and uses them to buy "game time" with a PlayDate (yes, they're called PlayDates). Players browse through PlayDate profiles, and once they find one they're interested in they can send a gaming invite. If the PlayDate accepts the invitation, she can set her mood to "Flirty" or "Dirty" and it's game on (though any real gaming girl would set her profile to "Hurty" and kick your ass). The pair can chat, play, or both for the amount of time purchased. When their time is up, the Player is invited to send the remaining 100 points to his PlayDate as a tip.
  • The Idea of the Book [Murketing] – Rob Walker's interesting series of posts that look at the physical performance of the "book" as it morphs into or is represented by or as other objects such as sculpture, food, planters, purses, etc.
  • Story Book inColor by AIPTEK – AIPTEK Story Book inColor is the 1st color E-Book on the market and there are 20 built-in illustrated audio stories. Children can open the Story Book inColor and enjoy the story telling with illustration instead of watching TV alone. AIPTEK also provide online bookstore for story book purchasing and downloading. AIPTEK Story Book inColor can store as many books as children want. Story Book inColor creates a whole new experience with fun and easy learning process which leads children learn to love the reading. The 4-way buttons simulated the scenario for children of searching favorite books on bookcase and also the page up and down feeling when reading. There is 1GB internal memory on AIPTEK Story Book inColor which can stores up to 45 story books. The story books also can be saved to SD/SDHC, MMC, MS pro, and USB drive. Besides, in order to protect children’s eyes, after reading over 20 minutes, AIPTEK Story Book inColor will pop up an icon to remind children to take a rest.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Survey Says Baby Boomers Think Playing With Your Blackberry During A Meeting Is Rude – The 'tude in the blog entry about the survey is as interesting as the 'tude the survey's creation and content point to. Social norms shift and that gets introduced and changes the way people interact gets put through the social norm filter: is it rude? Is it distracting? Should other people stop doing it? Or should we get over it? This just points to the transition we're going through rather than offering any clear sense of what's going on. Full disclosure: I'm a Gen-Xer and I bolted from a boring presentation a few weeks ago when the person behind me tapped on the shoulder and asked me to stop using my iPhone as she found it distracting [I was discreetly using Google Reader in my lap].
  • Gartner's Hype cycle – a graphic representation of the maturity, adoption and business application of specific technologies – Hype cycles characterize the over-enthusiasm or "hype" and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies.They also show how and when technologies move beyond the hype, offer practical benefits and become widely accepted.

    Five phases of the hype cycle
    1. "Technology Trigger" —A breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest
    2. "Peak of Inflated Expectations" — Frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations; There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures
    3. "Trough of Disillusionment" — Fails to meet expectations and becomes unfashionable
    4. "Slope of Enlightenment" —some businesses experiment to understand the benefits and practical application
    5. "Plateau of Productivity" — benefits become widely demonstrated and accepted

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Essayist Joseph Epstein Exposes Friendship – "Some aspects of friendship had changed, he averred. Women and men could now meet in non-sexual friendship in a way they could not in his father's generation. And through email, chat rooms, and technology, "techno friends" could be friendly without requiring personal presence."
  • Susan Roane – Small Talk – Keynote Speaker – Business Networking Techniques – Susan RoAne is the leading authority and original expert on how to work a room. Her best-selling books, popular interactive presentations and media interviews help companies and organizations successfully develop, build and manage client relationships that increase business growth.
  • Podcast: Susan RoAne, author of the book Face to Face: How to Reclaim the Personal Touch in a Digital World – RoAne is an author and speaker on communication but she's blissfully ignorant that the issues she's addressing (When do you email vs. make a phone call? Should you use your laptop in a meeting? Can you wear a bluetooth headset at the opera?) are social norms that are evolving rapidly as new interactive media take hold. What kind of expert proclaims "If you are twittering more than 5 times a day, you should get a life"? Especially in the same breath where she declares it as her new addiction. While she's a champion for the value of real personal connection and considers some of these technologies as excellent ways to enhance those relationships, she also has a top-down view of what's right and wrong without really addressing that sometimes our interpretations about new behaviors are arbitrary (i.e., the act of wearing a Bluetooth headset has no inherent moral value, it's only in the way our society at this time consents to interpret it).

The bear that saluted me

bearshot.jpg
I thought this advertising bear in Shinjuku was cool, and so stopped to take a picture. The bear saw me and posed with the typical Asian two-fingered V-gesture. After I took the photo, I did my best gaijin attempt at a bow. The bear returned the bow, and then saluted me.

Without a common language (indeed without a common species) we had an interesting opportunity to share our knowledge of each other’s culture in gestures. And although I rarely salute my friends and family, I understood its intent as a gesture-of-Western-origin.

Japan is quite impenetrable to the outsider, and it’s easy to subsist on a parallel layer, free from the possibility or opportunity for everyday interactions. In our two weeks that moat was crossed less than a dozen times (i.e., the couple in a cafe who smiled and waved at me when I peered in the window and inadvertently triggered the sliding door, letting in some very cold air; the couple who saw us eating Taiyaki (cooked sweet batter filled with bean paste in the sahpe of a fish) and explained what it was, what is was called, and compared camera models) and each time was rewarding in its own small way.

But making this connection with a bear, in the land of kawaii, was briefly and intensely magical.

Love your test participants more than yourself

Wonderfully passionate blog entry about making that all-important connection with another person in a user-research setting. This would be great fodder for the workshop I’m leading at EPIC next month.

Last week, after a long long time I had a chance to conduct user interviews again. I loved any minute of it. There is nothing more rewarding (for me) than spending two hours with people I never met before (and probably I will never meet again) trying to understand the world from their point of view.

In those two hours and from the first few seconds, my attention is totally focused on the other person. I observe how they enter the room, how they look at me, and how they shake my hand; I need to understand anything I can about their personality, their level of comfort, and their communication style to be able to be in synch with them. The entire session is a dance, where I ask and listen, probe and observe, with the only purpose of gaining insight in somebody else perceptions, thoughts, and expectations. It’s always a fascinating journey.

….

But I believe that the magic of understanding another person is not just a technical issue. It requires to suspend for a moment our ego-centered way to interpret the world and open up to a different interpretation. In a way, it’s about love.

There is something wonderful in experiencing somebody else’s world. You understanding expands, you suddenly see something you could not see before. And there is no going back.

FreshMeat #13: The Name of the Game is the Name

========================================================
FreshMeat #13 from Steve Portigal

               (__)                     
               (oo) Fresh                  
                \\/  Meat

Gimme gimme gimme! Gimme FreshMeat, Gimme FreshMeat!
=========================================================

Over the last couple of years, the Safeway grocery chain
has attempted to improve their quality of service by
addressing customers by name. You see, if you use their
loyalty card, or if you pay by debit or credit card,
they retrieve the text of your name and print it on
your cash register receipt. Checkers are required to
thank you by name, which they read off the receipt,
before they hand it to you. This doesn’t work so well,
because it takes more than a few seconds for some
checkers to read some names, and that delay at the
conclusion of your service is intolerable. Add to that,
an increased likelihood of having one’s name mispronounced,
and you’ve got a customer service failure. I mean, if I
had a dime for every time they’ve called me “Mr. Portugal,”
well, I wouldn’t have to shop at Safeway!

(This customer service problem was parodied by Saturday
Night Live back in 1992. You can read a transcript of that
sketch here.)

Recognizing the long-frustrating problem of
mispronunciation of names during commencement ceremonies,
schools like Baylor and Worcester Polytechnic Institute use
the web to collect phonetic spelling info from their grads.

The need is clear, and the technology is ready. Products
like Espeech and Orator II can begin to solve this problem.
The technology that translates text to speech actually
builds a sequence of phonemes (the basic speech sounds
used in a language) that could be spoken (by a speech
synthesizer) or output as phonetics. Just add another
field to all those databases of customer names. Let the
software take the first stab at guessing how to pronounce
the name. Checkout clerks and telemarketers would be
shown a pronunciation key at the appropriate time. If
the customer offers a correction, update the field.

If the companies that consumers do business with (airlines,
grocery stores, phone companies, banks, etc.) are going to
be addressing them by name, is it really so crazy to spend
some money getting those names right? Safeway obviously has
an inkling that they could deliver better service and forge
the right relationship through judicious use of their
customers’ names, maybe they need to step up their efforts
just a notch or two, and get it right.

If you are interested in ideas for products and services,
check out http://www.idea-a-day.com/ (updated daily, as
the name implies, or available as a daily email), or
http://www.halfbakery.com/ (looks cool, but kind of
impenetrable UI.)

Update:
Received February, 2002 from Steven A. Burd, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Office of Safeway, in response to a faxed copy of this issue of FreshMeat.

Dear Mr. Portigal:
Thank you for suggesting that we use some of the new software that translates text into speech, in conjunction with our ongoing customer service initiatives. We appreciate your interest as a good customer whose name has been mispronounced occasionally by our clerks.
It’s an interesting idea, one we have considered before – but using voice recognition technology, the opposite of what you propose. To be honest, we haven’t pursued this since our initial research, because the applications available at the time were expensive, slow and ineffectual. While we have similar concerns about the technology you mentioned, our industrial engineers may wish to visit the two web sites cited in your newsletter.
Meanwhile, we’ll review our stores in your area to be sure any employees who are having difficulty thanking customers by name receive remedial training. If our clerks are unsure of how a name is pronounced, they are to ask the customers. Admittedly, this is a low-tech solution, but it seems to work well.
Thanks again, Mr. Portigal. We value your constructive criticism, and the friendly spirit in which it is offered.

Update:
As we automate our lives, swallowed in a bottomless maw of voice-mail, it’s hard not to heed that little voice telling us to listen

Susan Sward
Sunday, October 18, 1998

Mother used to say that by the time people die, the world around them has often changed so much that death does not seem so terrible. I thought about her comment off and on when I was growing up — partly because I wished that the world where I had played in the 1950s would remain unchanged forever.

Soon enough, I realized that wouldn’t happen. There were the darkened, tree-lined streets of Santa Monica, for example, where my sisters and I ran barefoot chasing after the neighborhood boys. The magic of that mysterious realm was lost forever when the city installed street lights and switched them on one evening. Lately, though, my mother’s observation has been haunting me — because I fear the inexorable march of the machine.

News item: Bank says it will introduce cash-dispensing machines with new software to recognize customers’ faces.

News item: Three industry giants are pioneers in using speech-recognition technology for services such as quoting stock prices over the phone, switching a caller to the right department and reporting the whereabouts of a lost package.

News item: Later this year, many callers wanting flight information from an airline will not speak to a person but to a computer that acts like one.

News item: The Mill Valley Public Library installs an electronic checkout system removing the need to deal with a library assistant when borrowing many of the facility’s books.

Series

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