Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Patient Experience

My book group just finished reading A General Theory of Love. We seem to be a bunch of psychology nerds and fascinated by the human condition. The general theory is about how important human connection is and how intrinsic it is to our core being. The author's compose lengthy prose on the limbic system which allows mammals (unlike reptiles) to have complex interactions with their offspring. Oversimplified, we seek attachment and based on what we experienced as children, we may have healthy or unhealthy love attachments as we age. We seek connection.

Towards the end of the book, the author's discuss the loss of connection in healthcare from a 1990 New York Times article:

I wouldn't demand a lot of my doctor's time, I just wish he would brood on my situation for perhaps five minutes, that he would give me his whole mind just once. I would like to think of him as going through my character, as he goes through my flesh, to get at my illness, for each man is ill in his own way...I'd like my doctor to scan me, to grope for my spirit as well as my prostate. Without such recognition, I am nothing but my illness.

I have personally done multitudes of interviews with patients and this is one of the best quotes I've run across. What patients want, in addition to and perhaps beyond healing, is to be seen. It is important that they feel cared for and connected, not just like another in a long list of issues for the day. The book goes on to quote a 1994 article in the Lancet which advocates that even if doctors don't care, they should "act" as though they do. Many patients who desire compassion are now turning to alternative therapies.

So, why bring this up on this blog about user experience? It hearkens back to the user experience, but a piece that we often neglect. We talk about technology and how well it works for people, we talk about product design and whether or not it is intuitive and we test web sites to be sure people can easily navigate their way through. But, we often forget to "design" or review the human component, the most variable, least understood component of any system. Whether you are a physician, customer service rep, retail clerk or barista, remember that at the end of the day it is you who makes or breaks the customer experience. Be patient, think about how you might feel in the other person's shoes. Take a deep breath and grope for their spirit, I can guarantee you will both be happier in the end.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Experience Art

One of my favorite pics from the Maui trip, copyright Janna Kimel, not Peter Lik!

On a recent trip to Maui, I had a fantastic user experience. Yes, sun, sand and palm trees in March are the real experience for this Portlander, but there were a number of beautiful galleries on the island as well.

Peter Lik is a photographer with stunning work. You are transformed by the landscapes and photographs in his space upon entering. We all have lovely photos of trees and beaches, flowers and trees, even aunt Ethel. Peter has taken photography to a whole new level photographing many extreme weather conditions and flowers and landscapes like you have never seen them before. He uses a medium format camera and a special crystallized paper for printing.

The experience
Although his images are super pricey, collected by Frank Gehry, Bill Clinton and even Paris Hilton, I inquired with one of the salesmen to find out more about his extraordinary work. He carefully explained how the images are matted, between heavy plexiglass, and then took me into a side room and dimmed the lights. (I think it was at this point that he also closed the door but I was so mesmerized I didn't notice). The room looked a bit like a living room with a row of halogen lights above and a couch towards the back and beautiful, natural wood accents.

The salesman propped up a photo of some red maple leaves in fall with the halogen lights hitting just right. As he dimmed the lights, the image took on a whole new dimension, not just going flat or grey like a normal photo, but the light simply began to reflect differently. The image changed with every dim of the light. It was fantastic. In this instance, not only was the art exceptional, but the fact that I got to experience it to the fullest extent of its beauty in a setting somewhat similar to the one where I would own it was a great lesson learned.

How can your company help buyers have the full experience of your product simulated as it would be in the environment of use? What creative ways can you use to display and promote your extraordinary user experience?