Everybody has had this experience. You’re signing up for a new online service or installing a program, and as part of the process, filling in a form with vital information the company claims it needs.
At some point, the form asks if you want to receive e-mailed "information" (read: advertising) from the company, or sometimes from its partners. Or download and install a browser toolbar, or some other useless piece of software. Or make the company's page your home page.
Are the check boxes already checked so that you have to uncheck them to stop the company sending you spam or installing unwanted software? Or are they left unchecked?
It’s important. If you’re rushing through the sign-up process – and who doesn’t rush on their one-millionth online form - you may not notice and click the Next button without unchecking the boxes. Result: spam attack.
Companies that have thought through the kinds of relationships they want with customers – or, in the case of free online services, hoped-for customers-to-be – always leave the boxes unchecked. They know that to do otherwise is exploitive and, more to the point for them, may royally piss off prospective future customers.
But some don’t get it. They present the check boxes already checked. In hopes of what? Snaring the unsuspecting? Now there’s a customer service philosophy to live by.
I came across one recently: ooVoo, an online video conferencing and chat service. Let's be clear: ooVoo appears to be a good company with a very impressive service. But if I hadn’t learned from bitter experience to pay attention when filling out these forms, I would have ended up with more adware cluttering my computer and spam flooding my mailbox.
OoVoo also wanted my birth date. It claims it needs this information so it can enforce a policy barring those under 14. As if any 12-year-old who wanted to use the service couldn’t just select a bogus birth date. (I am now officially 109 years old btw.)
I’ll be writing about ooVoo, along with similar cloud-based video conferencing services, for SmallBusinessComputing. I interviewed the company's CEO, Philippe Schwartz, today. He comes across as a smart and sincere guy. So we’ll be generous for now and say that the way the ooVoo install program is set up is a minor lapse.
But our recommendation to ooVoo: change it.