Let’s play a little social psychology guessing game, and see how well you do.

Imagine you have an app on Facebook where users can hit a Contact Us link and write you anything that’s on their mind.  Further imagine that you get between 7,000 and 10,000 such contact requests a year.

How many of those users do you think clicked on Contact Us to say something nice?

Before I tell you the answer, let me be clear that all the numbers are real.  Status Shuffle has a lot of users, and those users write us that much every year.  In fact, I’m surprised they don’t write us more given the sheer usage volume Status Shuffle has.

The Shocking Truth

The answer is one.  One person a year writing something nice.  That’s less than 0.02% of contacts.  That’s a statistical anomaly.  We actually got one last week, and I can’t even remember the last time it happened before that.

When positive feedback arrives at our inbox, it’s such a celebration that it immediately gets bubbled up he same escalation path reserved for those OMG-we’re-down-and-the-whole-company-needs-to-know tickets.  And I doubt our users or product are unique.  I remember the same exact thing happening at a previous employer.

It’s All About the Effort

I don’t think people lack positive feelings about products they use, but it’s as though it’s not worth the effort to go out of one’s way to say so.

Point at hand: As soon as we got the aforementioned nice email, I posted it on our Facebook page and quickly got 5,000 likes and many positive comments.  Thumbs up is easy, so people do it.

Interestingly, inside Status Shuffle users are given the opportunity to thumbs up or down content.  It’s the same amount of effort.  We consistently see 10 thumbs up for every thumb down.  So given equal feedback mechanisms, both effortless, people tend to be positive.

Why are people are more inclined to contact you in order to complain? Maybe it’s because we get nothing in return for just saying something nice, but if we complain we have a vested interest: We might get the company to change it’s product.  I’m sure this guy or his friends have research about this.

What Have We Learned?

Wouldn’t it be nice if right about now I had an actionable recommendation for you?  Well, I have two.  The first is a bit weak and the second you won’t like.

My first advice is to make it as frictionless as possible for your customers to show their love for you.  It may be as simple as popping up a single question dialog: Do you love us?  Yes?  No?  Aggregate the result and share with your team.  Hopefully they’ll smile at the results.

My second advice is to go out and spread the love.  Your love.  When was the last time you wrote a nice blog post about a positive experience?  When was the last time you left a nice review for a restaurant you frequent or a book you enjoyed?  We all need to help the world lose the negativity bias.

As for myself, I’m as guilty as anyone1.  That, I’m going to fix with the next post.


1 In fact, I plan to use this very blog as a platform to complain and rant about many things.