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Question Template

Hi all,

I'm not exactly a veteran here yet, but I've been on the front lines long enough to recognize a few trends. One of those is how often we have to request further information from the OP in order to actually help them.

My thoughts are - if we made a template available (not mandatory, but available..) to askers - pre-populated with all of the high-level questions that we have to know in order to make an educated suggestion (ie: model, OS version, Vendor, etc), would it improve the average time to resolve questions and ultimately, improve overall customer satisfaction?

Of course we'd still have a free-text area for explanation etc, but we would have the essential information already captured upon submission and wouldn't have to go back and forth repeatedly (in some cases) to collect this data.

Just wanted to gather input on this idea.
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Expert Comment

Cassie Hetrick2016-01-18 07:21 PMID: 1886755
Hi Matt!

My name is Cassie, and I'm the Onboarding Specialist at EE.

I think this is a great idea, and I'm actually working on something like this right now!

Stay tuned for more information, you'll be seeing it soon :)

Cassie Hetrick

Rank: Master

Expert Comment

Netminder2016-01-19 09:34 AMID: 1887115
would it improve the average time to resolve questions and ultimately, improve overall customer satisfaction?
With respect to Ms Hetrick's experience with EE (she's been around for a while) and her efforts, the problem is really one of user behavior and the way our culture has evolved, the result of which is that
It won't get used.
Yes, that's a bit of an oversimplification, but consider the effort that will be required (from a programming standpoint) to build such a wizard that would cover the breadth of topics at EE and would take into consideration the potential topics in the future.

First, EE did, in fact, try this briefly during the development stages of the iteration of the site that went live in February 2007; the entire focus of that iteration was to make it easier for Experts to answer questions quickly and accurately (because we were getting something in the neighborhood of five times as many questions a day with maybe 2.5 times as many people answering them). EE found that it was truly impractical to develop an appropriate set of preliminary questions for each of the 975 or so topics -- which in and of themselves were part of the attempt to distill the question down to some specifics, like OS version -- because the variations were still too broad. Five years ago, people didn't worry about developing websites for cell phones.

Further, the Asker by definition doesn't know what his problem is (even if he thinks he does), so he will be being asked to include information that might not be relevant -- and that will annoy him, even if the information turns out to be relevant down the road. An example of that might be why someone building a website has an aunt looking at it using an older version of Internet Explorer -- which won't necessarily render the pages correctly. The OS would seem to be irrelevant until you find out that it's WinXP and the browser is IE8, but the guy developing might not know that.

Finally, consider who is asking and why. There are two types: the lazy and the desperate. The lazy aren't going to take the time to fill out a questionnaire in order to ask a question; they just want to get a solution. The desperate may be willing to take the time, but we found out during the testing phases of the new Live system (shameless plug), people won't wait around. Either way, if you need to solve a problem, you're going to take the path of least resistance -- so optional questions will get skipped, even if they're designed to provide information that's critical to getting a solution. We have consistently seen that behavior to the point that much of the Moderator/Topic Advisor function is about educating members to those actions (like responding to Expert posts) that will ensure success at Asking questions.

So I'm a bit skeptical that even if we're able to resolve the technical issues regarding asking only relevant questions about an Asker's specific situation, that those who should use it won't, and those who don't need it will bail on EE when faced with even a short questionnaire.

Having said that... it's certainly worth trying; it's never been fully implemented, or even had real testing done, and I'd love to be proven wrong.


Expert Comment

Jaime Lewis2016-01-19 09:51 AMID: 1887128
Fabulous suggestion, Matt! Even if only a small percentage of members use the template (one more vote for it being 100% optional), it could be really helpful for those trying to answer the questions. Hopefully providing additional support for members asking questions will be more helpful than simply dismissing them as lazy and/or desperate.
Rank: Master

Expert Comment

Netminder2016-01-19 01:33 PMID: 1887235
Ms Lewis,

No one is dismissing anyone... describing them based on about 14 years of having to help them get solutions, perhaps... but never dismissing them.
Rank: Ace

Expert Comment

Rob2016-01-19 02:11 PMID: 1887246
I think the goal here is more about helping the members ask the best possible question.  From what Netminder has said, I'll go further and says it's not possible or practical to build a template that could cover every possible combination of information that is required in asking a question.

This doesn't mean that it's not a good idea, just we're tackling the issue from the wrong angle.  We could create such a template but we would still have the same issues we do now.  The most prevalent issue is the question itself.  I can't tell you how often I see a question where I'm searching and finally ask "so what's your question?".  Then there are the ones that assume you know everything and can read the asker's mind.  e.g. "I've got a problem with my laptop, please help".

You can have all the code boxes, Software specific version dropdowns etc but no template can help someone write a good question.  On top of that, most questions do not need anything to start with other than an actual question!.

Everyone is on the right path here.  We want to get better crafted questions so that it's clear what help is needed.  The way to do that is to educate the askers on what to include in the body, title and topics as to what is going to get the best response from the experts.
Rank: Prodigy

Expert Comment

Jason C. Levine2016-01-22 10:41 AMID: 1888800
I'll go further and says it's not possible or practical to build a template that could cover every possible combination of information that is required in asking a question.

No, but this is letting the perfect get in the way of the good.  When EE was Experts helping Experts, getting a good question was normal because we all knew how to write one even if we were asking for help outside of our particular area of expertise.  Now that the askers are potentially way less skilled and/or their first language may not be English there may be room for a very basic question template:

Simplified "One-size fits all" Template

What are you trying to do?
What are you using to do it?
What happens/what is the problem/error?
What steps have you taken to fix it yourself?
What is your skill level in these areas?
What do you want EE to do to help?

A couple of text prompts at each step above would help someone shape a question and give Experts more of a shot at answering well instead of spending time drawing out the information.