A friend read my recent post on online dating, in which I was critical of eHarmony.com. She had a story to tell me...
Having been separated for years, she decided to give eHarmony.com a whirl. On the 1st page of the sign-up process, she was asked her marital status. She answered honestly:
She finished and submitted the first page. The system accepted her information, then gave her their interminable questionnaire — 12 long pages, a mixture of multiple choice and short-answer questions.
It took her a good half hour to fill it out. (In my confirmation test, it took me closer to 45 minutes. I can easily imagine some people taking over an hour.)
When she had FINALLY finished the tedious process, she clicked submit and...
THEN eHarmony told her she wasn't eligible for their service. You have to be widowed, divorced or never married. "Separated" isn't good enough, regardless of the duration.
She was choked. Not because they rejected her, but because they wasted her time. They knew she was ineligible as soon as she submitted the first page, and could easily have told her so then. But in a flagrant disregard for her time, they made her slog through 12 more pages of questions before telling her to get lost.
This raises an important issue: Do we have a responsibility to optimize the user experience for people we don't want as customers?
It's a question that applies well beyond online dating, to lead-generation sites. Should we make our screening process as painless as possible, even for those we're screening out?
If you take cynical "it's just business" approach, then perhaps from eHarmony's perspective, you don't care about the user experience for separated people: You don't want them as customers anyway, so giving them a bad user experience won't hurt your sales.
But I think this approach is more than just rude. It's also incredibly short-sighted. After all, a lead who doesn't qualify today, might very well qualify in the future.
People have long memories for being slighted. When my friend's divorce comes through, she'll remember how eHarmony.com added the insult of wasting her time to the injury of rejecting her. And she'll take her business elsewhere.
We should optimize the user experience for all visitors, including those we don't currently want as customers. It's not just good manners. In the long term, it's good business.