User Feedback Requests & Questions Part 2 – Do Requests Affect User Experience?

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In part 1 of our deep dive into user feedback requests we looked at how our brain responds to questions. We also looked at user reviews, how useful they are and if average ratings are “overrated”.

This week we continue looking into user feedback requests but with a different focus. In this article we are going to ask if ignored feedback requests affect consumption behavior online. We look at why we like talking about ourselves and sharing our experiences. Plus we also ask, do requests for feedback affect the quality of user experience?

So if you have an interest in user behavior, and if you work in online commerce or tech you do, we “request” that you read on.

User Feedback Requests - Person using a smartphone.
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Is It Bad If Users Ignore Your Requests? 

Feedback from users helps businesses. But, as we established in part 1 when we looked at the 90-9-1 rule, most users do not comply with feedback requests. 

So, what is the effect of requests on those users that decline requests for feedback or reviews?

There was very little research on this until April 2022 with the release of a study called “No, Thanks”: How Do Requests for Feedback Affect the Consumption Behavior of Non‑Compliers?”

The study focuses on what it calls QBE’s (Question-Behavior-Effects) and states that all previous studies have a selection bias built into them. That bias is that they only focus on the users that answer requests for feedback. The “No Thanks” study addresses this. It looks at the effect a request for feedback has on the consumption behavior of users who ignore the request.

The people behind the study worked with an anonymous website with millions of users and ran two field experiments with 80,000 users around the world. The anonymous site itself employs a “freemium” business model. So the main site in the experiment offers one value proposition for free, with desirable features made available for a fee.

The researchers behind the study exposed some users to a request to rate their experience. They also evaluated all users’ probability of conversion from the free version of the site through to the paid version.

Do Unanswered Requests Affect Conversion Rate?

The study found that users exposed to a rating request were more likely to convert to the paid version of the site than users who were not exposed. This was also not contingent on responding to the request. 

Users who received a rating request and did not comply were more likely to convert than those who did not receive a rating request. Users who did not comply with the rating request were also no less likely to convert than those users who actually compiled with a rating request.

So it seems that exposure to requests for ratings or feedback does have a positive effect on conversion rates. This is even more certain if you happen to use a freemium business model.

One of the possible reasons for this is something called “attitude accessibility”.

What Is Attitude Accessibility? Let’s Go Back To The Brain…

In psychological terms, accessibility is how easy a concept or idea can be retrieved from memory. Concepts or ideas that people think about a lot, or have thought about recently are easier for your brain to retrieve than something you rarely think about. For example if someone loves coffee, they probably think about drinking coffee a lot. Their attitude to drinking coffee becomes more entrenched the more they think about it. But that same person probably never thinks about coffee yields in Brazil. That is a concept that has never been activated by regular thought.

Accessible attitudes are attitudes that come to mind very quickly. They are strong, resistant to counter-persuasion and more predictive of an individual’s behavior than attitudes that are not as accessible.

How does this relate to ‘user rating requests? Well, according to the study it is possible to manipulate attitude accessibility. You can do this by asking questions about an individual’s own preferences. 

So, using our example, if you are asking the coffee drinking user rating questions about coffee they do not have to think too much to act according to their ingrained attitude.

Attitude accessibility is well-known in advertising circles. Repeated exposure to brief advertisements increases consumption behavior.

The “No Thanks” study makes an explicit link between QBEs (Question-Behavior-Effects) and attitude accessibility. Prompting users with rating requests, according to the study, works in a similar way to repeated exposure to brief advertisements. Even if the user ignores the rating request.

So asking users for ratings can increase conversion and sales. Even among users who do not answer that rating request.

If you have a website or app, and you are asking users for reviews, do not feel bad if they ignore you.

Keep asking, rating requests function as another form of advertising.

User Feedback Requests - Animated Image of a human brain.

We Like Talking About Ourselves

Now we know that rating requests can increase conversion rates, it is time to look at what motivates users who respond to rating/review requests.

So, why do people like talking about themselves? A 2012 study from the University of California provides some interesting insights.

According to the study, humans devote 30 to 40% of their speech output telling others about their own experiences. So the theory that the study examines is “that individuals place high subjective value on opportunities to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others and that doing so engages neural and cognitive mechanisms associated with reward.” 

So, the theory is that talking about ourselves makes us feel good. Quite how good it makes us feel is something of a shock.

The study highlights how sharing our thoughts provokes a big response in our brains. In fact the study suggests that humans love to self-disclose because it represents an “event with intrinsic value” in the same way “as with primary rewards such as food and sex”. 

Quite strange to see that talking about ourselves is that good isn’t it?

The study found that participants were even willing to give up financial rewards to talk about themselves. Effects were even magnified when people knew that their thoughts would be shared with another person.

So, it seems that people REALLY love talking about themselves. Users who do respond to feedback requests may have similar responses to a request trigger to share their experience as the people in the study. That small percentage of users who respond, respond because they like sharing their thoughts and opinions. They will also do it for no reward.

Image of user experience flows on a board.
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Do Requests Affect The Quality Of Experience? 

We have seen that users ignoring feedback requests is not all bad and why people really like talking about themselves.

But what effect, if any, do requests for feedback have on the quality of user experience?

A study titled “The effect of requests for user feedback on Quality of Experience” appears to provide some answers. 

It is obvious why businesses in the tech industry, and in eCommerce, want to know what users think of their products. Feedback helps companies improve their products and provides them insights into their customers.

We know that too many repeated requests for feedback can annoy people. But, the reasons behind user’s irritation with requests are not always clear.

The study found that “the disturbances generated by triggering user feedback requests have negligible impacts on the QoE (quality of experience) of software products”.

This suggests that feedback requests do not have an affect on the experience a user has, or their perception of that experience. 

But the study did find, as the researchers expected, that the timing of feedback requests is what was most likely to disturb users. If the request comes too early, the user does not feel like they know enough about the product to answer. If the request comes when a user is doing something, the user then becomes very frustrated. In the study this proved very problematic for users.

Users in the study also seemed to become disturbed by the frequency of requests. Though users were more annoyed by requests that interrupted a task they were trying to complete.

A person giving feedback on a tablet.
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What It All Means For Feedback

The studies suggest that user feedback requests are not seen as a negative among users. They can even aid conversion. It also is not the end of the world if users ignore requests, that is more probable than users complying with a request!

But a key driver of when users do dislike requests for feedback are what they are trying to achieve at the time you make the request. It is also very bad to question users in the early stages of using a product or service.

So you should ask users questions, but do NOT get in their way at any stage. Companies, especially in commerce, should also consider feedback requests as another avenue to influence a purchase decision. Businesses should consider tying feedback requests to loyalty rewards. Even though evidence suggests that the users who respond are not motivated by rewards. But users who would not normally respond could be. And they are a much bigger part of your customer base!

Key Takeaways

  • User feedback requests can aid conversion rate
  • Feedback requests can function as another form of marketing communication
  • People REALLY like talking about themselves and sharing their experiences
  • Do NOT ask users’ questions too early
  • Do NOT interrupt them when they are trying to do something
  • Experiment with tying feedback requests to rewards, this may encourage more feedback from non-compliers

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