This week, I interviewed a management consultant who worked for decades as a gate agent for an airline. She had an interesting perspective on the human resources aspect of the service encounter. From her perspective, personalization in the service encounter is important when things start to go wrong. However, training for airline employees isn’t sufficient to create an interaction where customers feel they are receiving a valuable service from the interaction. My interviewee felt that she had to learn the hard way how to handle frustrating situations with customers. Over time, she learned that focusing less on procedures and tasks, and focusing more on creating trust and empathy, was a more successful strategy.
She also told me a story about how, in the 1990s, the airlines switched from a DOS computer system with no mouse or windows, to a Windows-based one. The newer system required the gate agents to look at the screen more and click individual fields; as a result, gate agents made less eye contact with customers. My interviewee pointed out that the more you keep your focus on the computer (and not the customer), the more you feel like it’s OK to do so, and for all but the most extroverted workers, it’s more comfortable as well.
“IRB” stands for Institutional Review Board: the on-campus committee that oversees research on human subjects. Every MDes student is required to submit an application to the IRB for the user research portion of the master’s thesis, even for “simple” types of research such as interviews and observation.
The IRB application process started months ago, when I met with the IRB’s Doug McFarland for guidance on my application. (Since I don’t plan to work with any vulnerable populations, he led me to believe that my application would go through without difficulty.) I expect to hear back from the IRB in the next two or three weeks, though it would be nice to be able to begin user interviews shortly after Labor Day.
In order to help focus my research area, I thought it would be nice to interview experts from industry, consulting, and academia (business schools, perhaps) to hear their perspectives on customer-employee interaction and how the service experience could be customized using technology. I think I may have started contacting interviewees a bit late; so far, I’ve done only three:
See the rest of the Interaction Design Studio II process blog here.
Today, The Joneses shot rough draft images for our video sketch. The video will show how a family (Rachel, Dan, and three-year-old daughter Norah) uses our software, FamilyPatterns, to make dinnertime more peaceful. Chris and Andrea posed as Dan and Rachel in photos so that we could create a rough cut of the video, and test it with our classmates on Monday during Studio.
The ambient display barely made mention in our Deliverable 4 presentation. In our video sketch, we hope to develop a visualization for electronic wallpaper that will feature in the kitchen scene in our video.
This week also saw The Joneses writing an outline for the final presentation. Following Yong’s advice after the Deliverable 4 presentation, we decided to stress the story of our journey from the Territory Map days, when we planned to create a system to help parents decrease the cognitive noise of a busy schedule, to the development of FamilyPatterns. After a quick introduction of our concept, the presentation will describe the pivots in our project that caused us to change course.
By this time next week, we plan to have our final images ready for the video sketch.