Whether at work or at home, wherever we are, we use tools. We humans have made ourselves more than we are because we're able to craft tools and extend our abilities far beyond what we're born with.
A company with which we do business is nothing more than a tool. The company extends our abilities to help us succeed. The more the company enables us, the more likely we are to return to that company again and again.
The richer and more diverse the experience, the more we want to return.
So let's say that I visit a restaurant. Its mission? To help us enjoy good and timely food, good conversation, and have a better time than we might have had on our own. Through the restaurant, I don't have to cook. I might really like the person who serves my food. The atmosphere might pick me up after a long day at work. The restaurant and its staff are tools.
Does a waitress view her job this way? Does she see that she is a tool for the customer to achieve these ends? Or does the job serve her needs instead? Does she see it as a paycheck and she simply sees herself as shuffling food around?
What's the mission?
Do we see what we do as serving others? Or do we see what we do as serving ourselves?
In the first view, we see ourselves as tools for others.
In the second view, we see others as tools for us.
Earlier this year, I read something at Creating Passionate Users, one of my favorite blogs, and it got me thinking...
When people work with you, do they leave talking about how cool you are? Or do they talk about the cool thing that you did? In either case, they're promoting you. It's something you did for them. Which is nice. Good for you.
Or, do they leave the experience with you and talk about what they were able to do themselves? Did you enable them?
We don't want our users talking about the company or the product. All that matters is how they feel about themselves as a result of interacting with our product. How they feel about us has little impact on whether they'll become loyal (let alone passionate) users. All that matters is what we've helped them do or be.
So, when you analyze user reviews, look for first-person language. Look for the word "I". Do a statistical analysis on the number of times users talked about something they were able to do as a result, rather than a run-down of oh-how-great-this-company-is. View your competitor's positive reviews the same way.
I recently saw an amazing video.
The guy who produced it was interviewed and said this:
The best tools are those that are flexible enough to be used beyond that for which they were intended.
When a tool allows you to use it beyond your initial purpose, then it becomes about your cleverness and your creativity. You talk about you, and not so much the tool or the maker of the tool.
So let's say that I meet someone, a consultant. I need her help. But in my interaction with her, she helps me in ways I didn't expect and shows me how I can do things beyond my initial purpose. I come away more enabled than I was. I'm equipped for great action and I'm able to do more things. People get excited about what I've done.
How likely am I to return to the woman who helped me?
Kathy Sierra says:
If you're creating something to win awards, or to impress people, or to gain praise and recognition, that might lead to an award-winning, impressive product that leaves the user behind. I hear a lot of companies claim to care about what the user thinks, but they're still focused on what the user thinks of them or the product. I don't want people to praise us. I want them to thank us for helping them earn the praise of others.