How Many Users Suffer In Silence?

4 Apr 2006 - 4:32pm
8 years ago
4 replies
520 reads
Bailey, Jack
2006

Does anybody have a reliable stat on the ratio of the number of users who complain about something to the number who just suffer in silence?

I'm looking for some way to say "for these 5 complaints there are probably xx many more people out there annoyed but not bothering to complain."

Thanks in advance.

Jack Bailey
User Experience Architect, Global eBusiness
Franklin Templeton Investments

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jbailey at frk.com

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Comments

4 Apr 2006 - 6:21pm
cfmdesigns
2004

>From: "Bailey, Jack" <JBailey at frk.com>
>
>Does anybody have a reliable stat on the ratio of the number of users who complain about something to the number who just suffer in silence?

It's not "reliable", but the rule of thumb for magazine letter columns was reported to me as 1-to-10. If you get one letter about something, figure there are nine who didn't write in.

For software, it's going to depend on (a) the severity of the problem and (b) the ability to report things. If users can just click a button in the UI to send an e-mail bug report (like in the early releases of Safari), they'll report anything and everything. If they have to look up a Tech Support number and call it, then only real problems (to the user) will get reported. If they are charged $29.95 per call, they won't call in anything except disasters.

We've done a good job over the past 15 years of telling users that we don't want them to let us know about anything other than fatal problems. So for lower-level issues, the ratio is probably 1-to-100 or worse.

-- Jim Drew
Seattle, WA

4 Apr 2006 - 9:12pm
Baron Lane
2005

"Does anybody have a reliable stat on the ratio of the number of users who complain about something to the number who just suffer in silence?

I'm looking for some way to say "for these 5 complaints there are probably xx many more people out there annoyed but not bothering to complain."

Do you have any way other than verbal complaints to gauge dissatisfaction. For example, can you measure attrition from your site?

Baron

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5 Apr 2006 - 6:12am
Louise Ferguson
2005

On 05/04/06, Jim Drew <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> >From: "Bailey, Jack" <JBailey at frk.com>
> >
> >Does anybody have a reliable stat on the ratio of the number of users who
> complain about something to the number who just suffer in silence?
>
> It's not "reliable", but the rule of thumb for magazine letter columns was
> reported to me as 1-to-10. If you get one letter about something, figure
> there are nine who didn't write in.

I was going to suggest a similar comparison (letters to newspapers).

I work a lot on intranets, as an external evaluator. It's rare for
evaluation participants to say that they've mentioned a particular problem
to the intranet team, and they are working for the same company, motivated
to take part in usability evaluation activities, and usually have the
relevant contact details easily to hand.

Louise

5 Apr 2006 - 11:06am
Nasir Barday5
2006

From: "Bailey, Jack" <JBailey at frk.com>:
>> I'm looking for some way to say "for these 5 complaints there are
>> probably xx many more people out there annoyed but not bothering
>> to complain."

I don't have stats for you, but here's what I do when, I run into the "users
aren't complaining about it, so this is not that important" argument:

- Have them recall a product they have trouble with. Our company uses Lotus
Notes, so it's a readily familiar pain point for everyone here.
- Ask how many of them call or e-mail people at IBM/Lotus about the things
that frustrate them with Notes.

Almost no one responds, and everyone, looking around the room, has a "hmmmm"
moment.

That's when I tell them that instead of complaining about their problems
with a product, people (a) just stick it out and chalk up the failure of the
product to their own shortcomings (Cooper-esque apologists) or (b) switch to
a competing product.

This has worked for me every time, but in the context of selling a usability
test or another in-depth investigation of a potentially frustrating feature.
Is that what you're going for? Or are you trying to get them to do something
else?

- Nasir

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