posted 22 Jul 2008 in Volume 11 Issue 10
Thanking your persuasion
By Lynda Rathbone
As many times as I wish everyone were like me, I stop and remind myself if this were the case, it would be a very boring world.
Yes, I really dislike the person on the bus playing music on his mobile without headphones. No, I don’t want to take a minute to chat to the people with the clipboards on the street. I have to admit it really bugs me when I get offered about 20 free newspapers each day on my way to and from work. And how could anyone possibly like TV programmes about cars?
Variety is the spice of life but sometimes I just wish life would only use a few spices at a time!
But there is one thing I won’t budge on – a thing that I fear is becoming lost forever if we’re not careful – the simple act of saying thank you. Take shopping, for example. Whether it’s for groceries at my local shop or clothes on the high street, this common courtesy seems to be out of fashion. And it really doesn’t take much, does it?
In my local shop across the road, for example, they don’t even really speak English, yet alone talk to you or say thank you. They often chat to each other in another language while ringing up customers and don’t seem to care one bit that I’m there spending my hard-earned cash in their store.
Yes, I could go somewhere else, totally out of my way, but that’s not the point. The point is the thank you is not only expected, it’s the most important part of the transaction. It says they care (even if they don’t) that you have chosen to acquire their goods or services and without you, they wouldn’t exist. OK, maybe if they were the only shop in the world – but they aren’t.
It’s a competitive marketplace and people are tightening their purse-strings. When I can go elsewhere, I do, and avoid going across the road simply because they never acknowledge my business. And the thing that really gets me is, unconsciously, I often say thank you to them!
Now what does this real world annoyance have to do with the online world? Quite a bit, actually.
Think about all the transactions or downloads or e-mail sign-ups on a website that you’ve done recently. What were those experiences like? Did they take you on a frustrating journey through endless form fields until you finally reached the finish line, only to find a rather cold “thank you” page that gave you little confidence your transaction was actually finished?
Was the thank you page you reached chock full of large, flashing ads with a short one-liner? Or did they surprise you with a swift, efficient click-through, then shared in your satisfactory experience by thanking you with authority, giving you confirmation and telling you what will happen next – with links to manage your order/sign-up on the site? The reality is that it was probably a combination of those things.
But the point is the same – the thank you page is one of the most important, but forgotten, pages on your site.
I learned of something called persuasion windows a year or so ago (thanks, Richard!) and just had the opportunity to use them with a current client. If you haven’t heard of them, the basic idea is that you have ‘windows’ or opportunities when the user is most open to being persuaded into doing things. This can happen in the real world, like when you miss someone’s birthday. The moment you realise this, you are persuaded to do something really nice for them to make up for the oversight. The
When you are in a good mood;
When your world view no longer makes sense;
When you can take action immediately;
When you feel indebted because of a favour;
Immediately after you have made a mistake;
Immediately after you have denied a request.
Now translate this to your website. What do you define as “thank you pages” and are you effectively using them to your best advantage? In my opinion, thank you pages range from error pages (i.e., when you make a mistake or have been denied a request) to search engine results pages to an actual thank you after a successful transaction/download/sign-up, etc.
And what about the concept of thanking the users for simply choosing a certain option, then giving them related options to ensure they continue clicking? This is a good strategy for putting them in a good mood, increasing their dwell time on your site or page and encouraging continuing behaviour.
The site I’m working on at the moment is one selling a number of complicated products to users using filters and a configurator type device. Think the Dell site, where you can customise your computer, and add on peripherals or software once you’re done.
In order to make sure the users stay on track, the results page and the thank you page for these products will play a critical part in the user experience of the site to ensure users have related options to the final outcome, as well as an easy way to re-do the search if they aren’t satisfied with the current state of play.
The plan is both to get them to take action immediately, and to correct any mistakes without a lot of back-tracking. It also says volumes about your customer service and leaves them having a quality experience with you, hopefully guaranteeing a return visit and some free word-of-mouth marketing for you.
Applying this concept to the intranet side of things, thank you pages can be effective ways to get employees to update their personal information before, during or after completing an employee search or HR transaction. They can also be useful in search results on the site.
So many organisations I work with have trouble with consolidation of documents and knowledge on any internal repository. Users complain they get bad results from searching across multiple sources and don’t trust the results they do get due to out-of-date information, or poor metadata used to tag the documents that do come up.
Google does this now with the “Did you mean…” links, but applying this to a results page on an intranet can ask the user: “Didn’t find what you were looking for?”, with a link to related categories on the intranet, or other resources to search that are linked to those keywords, or even an e-mail at least to alert the intranet manager queries are being made so corrections can be made.
Many sites also use the ‘best bets’ approach, where they frequently monitor queried keywords and phrases; then direct users to links on the results page first, before the free text results showing them the hierarchy in which they could navigate to that content or related content on the site. Not only is this helpful; users will start thanking you for giving them good results and several options if they can’t find what they want instead of a dead end.
Now I know the more technical folks reading this article will be thinking these error, or results, or thank you pages, are often tricky to manipulate. OK. Yes, this can be the case. They are usually the result of programming in the software managing the transaction and – not content pages you control via your content management system. And yes, you may have to talk to the IT staff and go through some kind of help desk – but isn’t it worth it? You have a captive user who has just successfully (or unsuccessfully) completed a journey, and you don’t want to leave them with a dead end.
In our world of portlets and objects and widgets, there are ways around this now and a lot of applications (and even IT folk!) are starting to realise this thank you page real estate is pretty valuable.
So while I will probably remain frustrated by my local shop, I will refuse to believe the simple act of saying thank you is dead. After all, it just may be one of the most strategic things you can do these days.
As always, I’d love to hear from you on this or any other topic. I’m on Lynda@foursquaremedia.net. Thank you!