User experience, perfected.

User experience, perfected.

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March 28, 2011

Some people cry at movies and others laugh at funerals but when’s the last time you had an emotional response to a customer service page?  With all the zeroes and ones flying around, it’s easy to forget the visceral nature of navigating the online experience- particularly when you’re gnashing your teeth in frustration.

One company, Wufoo, has been experimenting with users’ feedback by adding an “emotional state” field on their support request form.  The results were immediate and surprising.  Below, founder Kevin Hale breaks down their rationale and why it’s never good to sound like a psychologist.

My idea was to simply add a dropdown field of possible feelings to the form and have them select the appropriate one. The tricky part we realized right away was in the copy. The obvious way to ask this is to write “How are you feeling?” But as soon as we wrote it, it felt all wrong.

Basically, no customer support person would actually ask that in person especially if that user was visibly angry.  [It sounds] condescending and I think it’s because it has connotations and allusions to being in a room with a psychiatrist, which is probably not the person you’re interested in having solve your technical support issues. Even I had a visceral reaction to the language and I made the field. And so after some fiddling, we ended up going live with “Emotional State.” Additionally, not only did people use the field, they were moved by it. One of the best things to come out of this is that the language used by our users to describe their issues now are more rational and dramatically less expressive (ie. nasty, filled with capital letters and exclamation marks).

Basically, no customer support person would actually ask that in person especially if that user was visibly angry.  [It sounds] condescending and I think it’s because it has connotations and allusions to being in a room with a psychiatrist, which is probably not the person you’re interested in having solve your technical support issues. Even I had a visceral reaction to the language and I made the field. And so after some fiddling, we ended up going live with “Emotional State.” Additionally, not only did people use the field, they were moved by it. One of the best things to come out of this is that the language used by our users to describe their issues now are more rational and dramatically less expressive (ie. nasty, filled with capital letters and exclamation marks).

When 70% of your support requests all of a sudden become nicer, when the calls for help are noticeably more polite, you tend to go the extra distance. It’s a self-serving cycle that couldn’t have been predicted if we didn’t actually try it and honestly shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to providing quality customer support.

Another thing that’s surprising to me in hindsight is what appears to be the relative honesty of the feelings expressed. If you’ve ever been to an emergency room, one of the first questions they ask you is to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s obvious that they use this to triage patients and so veterans of the system will exaggerate their pain level to reduce the time they spend in the waiting room. Chris had first-hand experience of this when he injured his ankle and the boy scout in him wouldn’t let him utter a number higher than 3, which resulted in a 6 hour wait for an x-ray while level 8 ear infections and pink eyes plowed ahead of him.

Now, our users didn’t know that we were NOT going to use the emotional state as a way of setting priority to a request, but it turns out, for the most part, most people did not try to game the system. One theory for that is there wasn’t a feedback loop for this kind of behavior. Because we didn’t act differently, our users didn’t react to the dropdown as a variable to hack.

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Mr WordPress

March 28, 2011

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