Tag Archives: books

Antisocial Virtual Reality – Retinas Deep

I’m finally reading Ready Player One, Ernest Cline’s dystopian future sci-fi novel that’s chock full of awesome ’80s culture. It’s a fun read, accurately called a “nerdgasm” by John Scalzi.

Brief synopsis: In 2044, an energy crisis has resulted in widespread economic despair. The OASIS is a virtual reality simulator in which many people escape the depressing world. It functions as an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and a virtual society. High school student Wade Watts spends his days seated in an old cargo van in a junkyard wearing his VR visor and haptic gloves, attending school inside the OASIS and hunting for OASIS creator James Halliday’s Easter egg. (Full synopsis here.)

“In the OASIS, you could create your own private planet, build a virtual mansion on it, furnish and decorate it however you liked, and invite a few thousand friends over for a party.” p.57

15% through the book, these were my first two thoughts, one somewhat unique to me and the other not at all:

  1. OASIS users sit for hours or days on end. They probably take about 200 steps per day (bathroom breaks).
  2. The OASIS replaces real life interaction like Facebook on steroids, and it’s a scary but fathomable progression.

pop art woman wearing virtual reality goggles saying OMGPlenty of people have written about whether Facebook could become a sort of OASIS. It’s clearly on Zuckerberg’s radar with the acquisition of Oculus Rift in 2014, and the fact that the company hands every new employee a copy of Ready Player One.  All covered.

What interests me is whether technology will make our future lifestyles even more sedentary and less interpersonally connected than they are today. In a world that enjoys VR more than IRL, we could really lose our ability to interact in a vulnerable, face-to-face manner. That’s already happening with smartphone addiction (social media and checking behaviors). People are more likely to complain on Facebook about daily offenses by neighbors, fellow drivers, or rude cashiers than to confront one another. But furthermore, in an increasingly virtual future, our bodies could either atrophy (if food becomes scarce) or expand even more (if foodstuff replaces real food and we subsist on cheap sugary cereal and microwave dinners). It’s not a pretty thought.

I like technology. I like the idea of free, globally accessible information. It just worries me that we’ll all be sitting on our asses not talking to each other even more. Instead of being thumbs deep, we’ll be retinas deep.

Two girls playing hopscotch on playgroundOn the bright side, quite the opposite of Wade attending virtual school from his van, here’s an elementary school in California where students have standing desks.  Bloodflow improves cognitive function and learning. Add in some VR use with open source global libraries and submersive educational experiences. Maintain real outdoor recess and give them standing desks – that’s promising.

5 Resources to Help You Learn UX

Here are five helpful resources about UX (user experience) design and copywriting. These are a great place for a beginner to start. If you’re already in marketing, you’re probably less of a beginner than you may think, if you’ve been paying attention. Pay attention all the time, especially when you’re the user. You know what feels good. Start to ask why that site is easy to use, and look for patterns. Screenshot landing pages and exit overlays that work or shopping carts that usher you along the purchase path. Research the design process of products that make everyday life easier.

Chemex coffeemaker
Chemex coffeemaker – flawless blending of design and function. Photo credit: Karl Fredrickson

The classic paperback rhetoric for writers, some copywriting tips, and these podcasts about design should prove informative for designers and marketers of various levels:

  1. Simple and Direct by Jacques Barzun. In high school, my dad gave me this book to help me write more concisely, and I’ve kept the same copy at my desk ever since. It’s very University of Chicago, and it’s worth reviewing every couple years, especially if you write copy that users or customers are forced to read. Simplify.
    “Principle 1. Have a point and make it by means of the best word.”
  2. Design for the Human Brain
    UX and UI design tips based on how our brains process information. Cognitive psychology is paramount to user centered design. Reduce cognitive load.
  3. 10 UX Copywriting Tips for Designers
    John Williams gets copywriting and design. “Be ruthless with your copy.” Cut cut cut.
  4. 3 Fundamental User Onboarding Lessons from Classic Nintendo Games
    How to create good onboarding flow and inspire users to progress. Place emphasis on the naive user and value of external testing. Tetris “presents a world of perpetual uncompleted tasks” which stick in your memory, bugging your brain to finish. It’s the best example of the Zeigarnik Effect, or the “need to complete.”
  5. 14 Design Podcasts to Put in Your Ears
    99% Invisible, Design Matters, and more. Tip: I like to listen to podcasts with the free Stitcher app. It gets smarter with use.

Book Review: “Delight Your Customers” by Steve Curtin

Steve Curtin’s Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary is about taking customer service from ordinary to extraordinary. The emphasis is on employees’ understanding of the difference between job function and job essence. It’s a good read for marketers, because we can help shape policies and culture for customer-facing team members.

Delight Your Customer book cover
Steve Curtin focuses on the difference between job function and job essence

Here are the service employee basics, according to Curtin:

Ordinary Service
Job functions: “The duties or tasks associated with a job role.”

“…job function is necessary—even critical (i.e., the shopping carts must be retrieved from the parking lot…)—but it does not represent the totality of an employee’s job role!… The other half…often neglected, is job essence. His highest priority at work is to create promoters.”

  • Job knowledge and skills
  • Typical customer service: “routine, expected, and ordinary”
  • Results-oriented: policies, procedures, checklists
Extraordinary Service
“Job essence: An employee’s highest priority at work (i.e., to create delighted customers!)”
  • Motivation (understanding why one performs job functions)
  • Reflected in employees’ personality, creativity, unique flair
  • Lasting positive impressions on customers

Teaching the importance of job essence can really make a difference in your employees’ attitudes, which you need to optimize for a great customer experience. Most people (in any job) don’t answer this question correctly: “What do you do?” They’ll talk about job function: “I collect shopping carts from the parking lot.” But they should talk about job essence: “I make sure every customer has a wonderful shopping experience, starting with their first impression.”

Bon Qui Qui is funny because it’s true.

Eye Contact

I quit going to LA Fitness for a few reasons, but the lack of customer service was a big one. For years, the greeter sensed my presence without looking up from her phone, held out her hand for my card, swiped it, and handed it back silently. It’s the case at most grocery stores, too. Over time, the effect of being shuffled along through impersonal assembly line transactions has a negative impact on our society. The difference made by a friendly Publix cashier who makes eye contact, offers a greeting, and thanks me first is a stark contrast to most transactions. We’ve come to expect the exchange of money for goods to be a robotic, thankless necessity. It shouldn’t be.

“Thank You” (for taking my money)

One of Curtin’s best observations is about the order in which thanks are given at time of payment. Do you find yourself thanking the cashier for taking your money before she thanks you? Does she even say the words “thank you”?

woman cashier taking customer credit cardIn our efforts to be polite or politically correct, we’ve become self-effacing toward workers in service jobs. We have established a pattern of not expecting to be thanked first for our business. This is a problem. Granted, plenty of customers are rude and service people deserve courtesy and respect. But the customer deserves the primary thanking. Curtin gets it and has helpful ideas about ways to motivate employees to provide great service.

Grab your copy here:

For all the lamenting of the loss of human connection due to technology, let’s remember the simple opportunities for positive impressions absent from mechanized transactions in too many brick and mortar stores.

When’s the last time you received excellent customer service?

Book reviewed:
Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary

Watch: Delight Your Customers Book Trailer

Updated 11/1/16