Friday, October 16, 2020

Open Wide to Calm Complaint Intensity

Smaller bodies spew fiercer complaints. Whether that’s true or not for people, researchers at China’s Zhongnan University of Economics and Law found it’s true for computer devices with screens. In an analysis of over 7,800 complaint posts, those sent from a mobile phone, compared to those sent from a desktop computer, averaged more indicators of emotional intensity. The indicators included words such as “angry” “sad,” and “entrap,” plus format cues like words in all caps and use of exclamation marks. Similar findings were obtained when the researchers had groups of participants use either an iPhone with a 5.5-inch screen or an iPad with a 9.6-inch screen to file a complaint. The complaints from the iPhone were more intensely negative.
     Further study indicated that the reason for the difference has to do with a sense of spatial crowding. A smaller screen feels more constrained, and constraints aggravate pre-existing irritation. Along with this, the findings provide guidance for reducing the effect: Make the screen less crowded and more open, such as by omitting a frame around the area where the consumer enters the text of the complaints. In the studies, this simple change eased the fierceness.
     We want our customers to be psychologically open to expressing dissatisfactions. Whatever the severity of the problem, you’d like to know about it so you preserve good relationships with your customers and prune out suppliers of flawed merchandise. By designing the small-screen interface to be physically open, we protect against misinterpreting the depth of irritation.
     Other studies, conducted in a Western culture using a different approach, suggest an alternative explanation for the small-screen complaint-fierceness effect. University of Pennsylvania researchers find that people are more candid when communicating via smartphones than via personal computer. That could account for the increased intensity in the griping when a consumer feels cheated or otherwise wronged.
     An important extension to this, though, is that candor also can swing complaints toward less intensity when it leads customers to recognize their own responsibility for dissatisfaction. Researchers at Bayer Healthcare, Columbia University, and Maastricht University found that placing a mirror behind places where you accept complaints reduces the intensity of customers’ disgruntlement. Mirrors cause us to pause and look at ourselves. Moreover, the reflection in the mirror helps people sense emotions they’re experiencing, again arousing self-awareness which can ease extreme irritation. Signage including words like I, my, and mine also helps.

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