Posts Tagged ‘Forms’

Society is good at hanging onto concepts long after they become obsolete – largely unconciously.

TV took awhile to figure what was best for its own format. We laugh now at early TV shows that awkwardly tried to adapt movie or stage tricks.

Everyone knows the Web will follow the same path, but what will look funny in a decade?

I believe Web is borrowing too heavily from manual administration processes. This is especially evident when web applications elicit information from potential customers. What do they commonly use? an 19th century bureaucratic ‘form’. Lots of boxes to fill out.
Why? Becuase few have ever thought about it from the customers perspective.

Imagine programming a robot to walk up to someone at a party, handing over a form on a clip-board and saying, “I think you are attractive, and would love to introduce myself, but first I need you to fill this out so I know what to talk to you about”. This may sound silly – but that is effectively what most information-gathering on a website does. Why?

Forms work in a post office or Government department, but not in a person to person communication.
Forms work for an anonymous company to person communication, not one involving two humans.
Forms work when you have no choice but to fill it out to get what you want.

Web gives you choice. Web gives you competitors – one click away.

Chris’s Rule 1: Person to Person communication conventions are better suited to Web. ESPECIALLY when you do not know each other – yet.

OK – lets try it again with our party intro: “Hi I’m Chris and I’m pleased to meet you. Can I have your name, star-sign, phone number and email address and we can get this conversation underway”.

Nope – Still not right. Forms fail my ‘person to person’ test even when cleverly disguised as conversation. Why?

Chris’s Rule 2: Person to Person communications are one-question-and-answer transaction at a time.

Lets try again: “Hi I’m Chris. Can I have your name?”
“Hi, I’m Karen. Where are you from Chris?”
“Hi Karen and I’m pleased to meet you, what is your star sign”
“I asked where you were from Chris”
“Well, whats your phone number?”
“Go away moron”.
“Is that moron.com?”

Arrgh – ERROR – the customer deviated from the carefully orchestrated script!
Customers can sure be tricky, but to make our robot successful it has to obey the third rule

Rule 3: Capture and Provide Information in any order the client dictates.

This is one of the most important things I discovered when designing call centre software for three very special clients in the nineties. We wanted the agents to be able to have a friendly, natural conversation while compiling complex information AND answering callers questions.

I discovered that few people call and meekly wait to be asked form-like questions. They are more likely to provide information in the form of a question. Something like “Hi, its Chris Draper here. We want to buy an investment property and were wondering what we can borrow against the Fishing Trawler my brother owns”.

This statement is rich in information, and definitely does not fit a pre-prescribed script of the sort most call centres provide to their agents. We can do this by giving the agent tools to capture the information as it is provided by the client – even if that information is not needed right away. (The fishing trawler needs to be parked against loan collateral for example). In this way we can avoid asking the client for information they already think they have provide. Even if we do not loan money against brothers fishing trawlers, that information is valuable to later parts of the conversation (as it would be if it was a friendly person to person chat).

At this point a ‘normal’ call centre is likely to force the agent to start at the beginingĀ  of a set of questions, so the response is likely to be. “Thanks for calling us – we listen! I need a few details before I answer your question though. So Chris – what is your name?”

Which is a blatant way of bringing up rule four.

Rule 4: Make sure the client senses you are listening to what they provide.

Natural conversation is full of acknowledgements of what the other person says. If we are to dispense with forms we need to incorporate this into our new process. There areĀ  almost as many techniques as their are situations. Contact me if you want to discuss your specific situation. However, the most frequently used one is the one-question-at-a-time approach used by a few websites. Generally you start with anonymous information and build trust before asking questions that revel identity. Our robot at the party might be more successful with the following:

“Do you think we have the same star sign? Whats yours?”

“I dunno – mines Aries”

” Do you think Aries is compatible with Leo? Sorry. Forgetting my manners – I’m Chris”

“Karen, pleased to meet you Chris”

“Karen. nice name. So how long have you been an Aries……”

So you can see to set up a question flow takes a lot of thought and effort, but the disipline required almost always results in breakthroughs – getting psychograhic information you thought would not be possible, (Likes, dislikes, preferences), while letting go of redundant bits you always demanded, but were frequently inaccurate so as to make them useless. (Religious affiliations, and Date of Birth come top of my list)

Forms are synchronous – conversation is asynchronous. Want to kill a conversation? – demand a heap of information of the client without acknowledgement or something in return. IF you model your Web processes on a Person to Person ‘getting to know you’ conversation model you will be wildly more successful.

One final rule.

Chris’s Rule 5: Ensure the customer understands why you want the information, and what they get in return.

I’ll let you ponder on the implementation of that one yourself!