Oh my goodness, a user brain damage!

Oh my goodness, a user brain damage!

Recently, I bumped into Harm Boertien, a mission-critical engineer showing passion and perseverance for humanity in technology. I loved the geeky T‑shirt he was wearing with the print: Algorithm: a word used by programmers when they do not want to explain what they did.”

I’m sure Harm was enjoying my compliment. This funny definition’ of an algorithm is a perfect example of a knowledge bias. In plain English: the more familiar you are with something, the harder it is to put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s not familiar with that thing. 

The knowledge bias makes it harder to empathize. In IT, experts like developers, superusers, or service desk agents, communicate regularly with non-experts. Take a typical communication flow on a service desk: a user is calling for support; the agent tries to help narrow down the problem; the user doesn’t get it and starts responding with anxiety; the agent starts thinking, oh my goodness, a user brain damage’; and ta-da, the conversation switchtracks.

The outcome is that the expert feels irritation, superiority, and even contempt, and the non-expert feels uncertainty, helplessness, or even rejection. The Xperience Level Agreement addresses ways to deal with the knowledge bias and many other communication bugs.’

Why? Users often not able to communicate the entirety of their needs and wants. They provide incomplete, inaccurate, and self-conflicting information. That may be true, but there’s no reason not to excel in user-centricity and customer experience. We developed a Masterclass Deep Empathy in Tech’ for events and in-house sessions. Please get in touch with me when you want to know more.

Marco Gianotten is founder of GIARTE — At Giarte, we firmly believe IT isn’t about bits and bytes. It’s about people. We design the tools and insights to reveal the human experience in tech.