I was recently listening to a talk by Simon Sinek about how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. His premise is pretty simple yet very powerful, and can be better understood by looking at his “Golder Circle” and its three layers: The core “why” (the cause), the middle “how” (the value proposition) and the external “what” (products or services).
He discovered that leaders (both individuals as well as companies) think, act and communicate in the exact opposite way (or direction) than everyone else, starting with the “why” instead of the “what” as mostly everyone else does. When you start from the outside, you deal with reasons and logic with the hope of triggering a reaction. But when you start from the inside, you deal with emotions and beliefs which drive decision making and then simply use the facts and data as justification.
The power behind this idea is that communicating and interacting with others that share your belief (the “why”), you trigger gut decisions that change behaviors. At that point, the “what” becomes somewhat irrelevant.
Thinking about this in the concept of prompt design, I realized that most prompts follow the same uninspiring sequence of what-how-why where we first tell users what it is that’s going to happen, how they are going to interact, only to hope that they understand our reasons and play along with the system — so we shouldn’t be surprised if users push back and run for the operator option.
Does this seem familiar?
“Please listen carefully to the following choices (what) before making a selection (how)(why).”
I think that by inverting the order on some of these prompts, we can connect with users more easily. If you notice, some of the latest pre-transfer designs already follow a similar phrasing structure:
“So that I can transfer to the right person (why) please tell me (how) what’s the reason for your call (what)
So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that these types of prompts have much higher acceptance rates.
Think about it. If you combine this concept with the new age of transparency, why can’t companies and their systems be up front and say “We believe that you should decide how to interact with us. We believe in using technology to reduce our costs so we can pass the savings to you and our self-service solutions reflect that. So please tell me, what can I help you with?”