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Friday, Mar. 30, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Measuring the “Piss-Off Factor”

By Holly Buchanan
March 30th, 2007

operator“It was like this sales woman was following me all over the store. I told her I didn’t want any help, but she didn’t listen to me,” commented my co-worker John Q. “She was always right on me, constantly looking over my shoulder. I half expected her to come into the dressing room and help me into my underwear!”

Wow… creepy.

Sound bizarre? It’s a real experience, though in the virtual world. John was shopping online at an ecommerce site and was followed everywhere by the nice looking woman with the headset in the “Live Chat” window. She wouldn’t leave him alone. So he left, and may not ever be back.

John experienced what might be dubbed a high POF (Piss-Off Factor).

When you measure ROI are your taking into account POF?

Every website and online communication has a POF. There are things you are doing that are pissing-off customers and potential customers. Trust me: no one is immune from POF.

There are two reasons why POF is an important factor:

One: The vast majority of your online visitors don’t share this information with you. You have no idea WHY they left (or what upset them).

Two: These are people who willingly came to you, wanting to buy, and left disappointed. These are qualified buyers who want to do business with you; they’re extremely valuable customers or potential customers that you’re paying a lot of money to attract in the first place.

Here’s the problem:

frustratedImagine if you will that you’re a single guy with a profile on a dating site. An attractive single woman looking for a guy visits your profile. But there is verbiage in your profile that turns her off. She leaves. Not only do you not realize what you did to turn her off, you don’t even know an amazing woman looked at your profile and left.

Now, yes, you can measure “abandonment rate.” But can you measure whether that person was just in the wrong place and not really interested vs. whether that person was very interested and wanted to buy?

That single guy has no idea there was a really hot woman ready to date him. And more importantly, he doesn’t know what he did to piss her off. But he is not focused on measuring his POF, he’s only focused on the women who actually do contact him (i.e., his conversion rate).

Hmm… does this sound familiar? Are you so busy focusing on your conversion rate that you’re not paying attention to POF?

I’m sure the online retailer John Q visited, like many e-tailers, found that introducing Live Chat increased conversion. And the more intrusive that live chat was, the better the conversion rate (incrementally, of course). But what about the visitors who found that constant live chat surveillance intrusive? What about the visitors that left the site and won’t come back because they were pissed off about that intrusion into their sacred online space?

Subscription sites suffer from some of the highest POF of any online business model. “Oh, you want to see that? Well first you need to give me lots of personal information and fork over your credit card.” The kicker is, this model proves very effective! People aren’t happy about it but if they want/need what you have badly enough, they’ll fork over the information and the money.

But what about the portion of visitors who want/need what you want but just need more information? Need more questions answered? Need a few vital pieces of persuasive copy that would give them enough confidence to move forward? What is the opportunity cost of the visitors you’ve “turned away”?

What about the overall customer experience? Is that 0.05% conversion increase with constant live chat intrusion worth the opportunity cost of all the customers who leave and don’t come back because the experience pissed them off? What if that percentage is actually higher than the conversion increase?

How much money are you turning away? Are you measuring your POF?

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Comments (30)

  1. Hi Holly,
    Great post, and timely. We just had someone with a high POF – who was justifiably upset about a shipping charge – and wrote a detailed email about it. So we emailed him an apology, explanation, and offered free shipping for his trouble. His POF went way down, as ended his reply with:
    “At any rate, I appreciate your generous offer. You’re on! I’ll call in.”
    Thanks for the insight.

  2. This article presents and interesting challenge with absolutely no suggested solution. A problem that is presented from an expert without even a hint of a solution – or even an “I don’t know”, increases my POF highly.

    One could say that a way to measure your POF would be to have average customers visit your site and see what they have to say (which in my opinion amounts to nothing more than a web-based focus group and we all know how effective focus are…not!) but I would venture to guess that meany progressive companies would have already done that but I’m willing to be surprised. And, if no one is immune to the POF factor, even proactive companies would have some sort of something that can be addressed/fixed.

    We can wait for them to send an email and rectify the situation as soon as possible as the commenter above did. But, if, as you say, “Not only do you not realize what you did to turn her off, you don’t even know an amazing woman looked at your profile and left.” How can you measure something, as this article suggests, if you don’t even know when/where/why/how or if it’s happening?

    And that brings us right back to the question: what’s the best ways for thinking companies to measure their POF?

  3. Hi Holly: Very enjoyable and thought-provoking article! How do you measure
    POF? Ask. Ask again. Provide an incentive for people to tell you about their POF..and they will. Darryl Hold

  4. Hi Holly

    Very interesting article. I am surprised John found the LiveChat woman intrusive. In the electronic medium, it is so much easier to ignore the extra elements like the LC buttons and the navigation items and focus on the content.

    In any case, I would appreciate if you cover a few ways to identify the POF factors in a sequel to your article. Asking a question and not answering that somewhere in your copy can actually increase the POF value :)

    I suggest that site owners run a split test with and without the LC buttons and see which one is converting better. A small feedback box asking the readers if they found any bugs or annoying elements can do the trick too. If incentivized, it can work wonders.

  5. In order to be real it doesn’t need to be measurable. See, some people view a thought piece as part of their POF and that is legitimiate. Others are stimulated by someone who asks a question and instead of chewing up and digesting the answer for the reader has enough respect to allow the reader to come up with their own answers. Darryl and Arun both have reasonable approaches to measuring POF and there are others including some of the persona based persuasion scenario analysis we perform. Can anyone else think of some other ways to measure POF?

  6. Why not add an “IP” ( I’m pissed ) or a “wait a sec” button. My 15-year-old daughter is asked for her info on a variety of different sites. She, as well as most of her friends refuse to provide personal info at commercial or informational sites unless those sites are “peer approved & must sees”. At those sites the need to be included is worth the cost of info and the time to register. Otherwise, she’s gone. If someone hasn’t yet, someone will soon create a universally acceptable acronym and button for “here’s why you pissed me off”. It’s just another step in the natural evolution of living online.

  7. Jeffrey:

    “In order to be real it doesn’t need to be measurable.” I agree with that totally.

    I also don’t like to be spoon-fed solutions – as you mention, I have a working brain.

    If Holly’s intention was to get me thinking, she certainly did that without a doubt. I’m not sure I buy the angle of “enough respect to allow the reader to come up with their own answers” but, OK.

    The potential solutions presented here are good IF YOU KNOW you’re ticking people off. However, Holly’s post specifically mentions: “Not only do you not realize what you did to turn her off, you don’t even know an amazing woman looked at your profile and left.”

    That’s the challenge I have with her angle…if you don’t know, how can you measure? You can’t. And, it’s OK to say that and then say “but here’s what you CAN do when you DO know”.

    But, hiding behind “the reader figuring things out for themselves” doesn’t fly with me.

    Present a challenge, present possible solutions – otherwise it’s just whining.

  8. Another excellent article. I deal with this POF dilemma on a regular basis. I try to encourage people to sign up to my newsletter, but how much should I push them?

    I have removed my pop-up subscription page from most pages on my site, just in case my POF was too high. Since doing this, I’ve had people email me and thank me for removing my pop-up pages, so at least I have at least pacified some people.


  9. For everyone who would like more specifics on how to measure POF – I hear you. I will have a follow up post later coming shortly.

  10. “later coming shortly” – this is why I have waited to respond – nasty head cold has rendered the brain almost unusable, but never fear, sudafed is here. Measuring POF Part II- should be up later today.

  11. Holly’s brain in almost unusable mode is still pretty impressive so don’t worry be happy.

  12. Am I pissed off! The article is titled “Measuring the ‘Piss Off Factor’” but there’s nothing here about how to measure it!

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  13. Karl, please see above comments. We will have some advice on how to ‘measure’–or find correlational ‘measures of’–this particular intangible in a follow-up post (probably later today). -Blog Editor

  14. Solution – Get feedback from your users using the least disruptive method possible. Try a survey – but don’t push it down their troats with popups every time they view a page. We got some great results using a tool from, but there are others out there. Give that a try, reduce your POF by actually listening to the visitors of your site. ;)

  15. [...] Okay… So, the methodical types have called me out on my last post. While I explained the "Piss-Off Factor," I didn't explain how to measure it. Although "measure" was indeed in the title, I didn't mean it in the web analytics sense; rather, I was hoping to get people thinking about the customer experience as a whole. More to the point, that what we can't measure is sometimes more important than what we can. [...]

  16. This post is on April 1st … so at first my radar thought Holly was laying some poodiddly on my doorstep.

    When is it acceptable to piss somebody off? Jeff doesn’t throw slow pitch softballs … he sizzles some hardball advice down your gullet … and no doubt has pissed off a few folks in the process. I think the real question to ask is Do You Know Really Who You Are and hence Who Your Customer is. For example a Wal-Mart shopper would be turned off by Saks … and maybe visa-versa.

    I’m not suggesting it is acceptable to piss off people because you have a crappy website … but maybe your website needs to have an edge, an attitude, a personality that will appeal to some and perhaps piss off the right (wrong) people.

  17. Now Tom,

    would I really do something like lay poodiddly on your doorstep?

    Well, um ok – maybe.

    But you have a good point. We actually create anti-personas who represent customers you DON’T want – we use them to make sure you get rid of those visitors quickly.

    For the customers you do want – what some people like might piss off others. That’s why we plan different scenarios or pathways for different personas.

    Example: One methodical persona might love lots of detailed technical information about diamonds. One spontaneous persona might get pissed off by all that useless technical information.

    She may want the latest celebrity diamond news. That might piss off our methodical persona.

    That’s why we create two different scenarios/pathways where each persona gets what they want and neither gets what they don’t want – thus reducing your POF.

  18. When you measure action, you measure inaction as well, and that’s the only thing I care about — what customers actually DO, not what they could do or how they felt about it. Measuring ephemeral “POF” is pointless. It’s not a scientific term anyway.
    As far as I am concerned, this article is useless.

  19. Paul,

    I am not sure it was meant as a scientific term but one that would open up discussion. That is the value of a blog and I am glad you joined in. While it may not resonate with you Paul, I wonder how many GrokDotCom readers agree how important it is to even be thinking about this in any way; scientific or not.

  20. [...] * Are you pissing-off your users? Make sure you know how to measure the pissyness. (No, that probably isn’t a real word) [...]

  21. Let’s substitute “John” for “Jane” and “POF” for “PMS” in the above article. It’s meaning won’t change. “When you measure ROI are you taking into account PMS?”
    Are you measuring your BS Factor?

  22. [...] I mention the book because I've been writing a lot about what analytics can and cannot measure (here are two examples). Len Ellis puts a more scientific spin on this very subject: Policy makers at all levels, planners of all types, marketers in all categories use data about human affairs to inform their understanding, recommendations and decisions about the built environment in which we all must live … we are reduced to a set of features that are isolated from their contexts … as data becomes the dominant lens for understanding and acting on human affairs, it tends to crowd out [motivational forces]. [...]

  23. [...] algorithm behind it) when I first checked it out- I ran the following three posts through it: [...]

  24. Great article. I agree. One thing I think any webmaster doesn’t want to do is “PO” their customers. There are so many variables in creating a consumer friendly website. This topic of discussion is good to talk about. Great stuff.


  25. Holly,

    I can truly relate to many of these sites and frustrations. The ones that get me are the online travel sites like JetBlue, etc…I still go to their sites only to see if they have changed anything and of course, to find cheaper airline tickets. I recently made in-advanced airline reservations on JetBlue, never used them before; however, everyone else keeps bigging up their prices and the online experience. Well on this night, I said since my flight is two months off, I thought I’d try their new technique of “Bill Me Later”. What a “crock”. How p’ed off I was when I checked my bank and realized that JetBlue had already taken the money out of my account. In calling JetBlue I was told that the only thing that could be done was for my reservations to be cancelled and it would take “7″ business days before my refund would be granted. I was naturally frustrated and quite angry. How can you advertise something if you haven’t tested it to see it if really works and then you have no direct answers for the customers who have been ripped off for merely trusting in “word of mouth”. I was so frustrated that my fiancee merely told me to leave the reservations because there was no guarantee that we would get the same reservations ie..seats and/or pricing. So he opted to give me the money back just to shut me up. How fair is that? And what makes it worse, these sites have the nerve to tell you that you have to pay such and such in order to make any changes to your reservations. And to top it off, there is always a third party involved in the sales they collect from unsuspecting customers. Priceline is another that really p’es me off. That darn negotiator is a pain in the “you know what”. Neither here nor there, you almost NEVER, get the price “you name”. The prices go up higher and higher and then you keep receiving all these stupid emails telling you a price has been found. What do you do about these aggravating situations?

  26. [...] Off Any Customers Lately? Wait, it’s still early in the year Holly Buchanan has an article on GrokDotCom that covers this exact question. If you’ve ever been in a store wandering around with an item [...]

  27. [...] Imagen: FutureNow. [...]

  28. Now, yes, you can measure “abandonment rate.” But can you measure whether that person was just in the wrong place and not really interested vs. whether that person was very interested and wanted to buy?

  29. I thought I’d try their new technique of “Bill Me Later”. What a “crock”. How p’ed off I was when I checked my bank and realized that JetBlue had already taken the money out of my account. In calling JetBlue I was told that the only thing that could be done was for my reservations to be cancelled and it would take “7″ business days before my refund would be granted. I was naturally frustrated and quite angry.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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