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We are doing an app wherein one party (customer) can have a video conference with another party (consultant) in limited time (e.g. 15 minutes).

What is the best way to end the connection between two parties in a way that doesn't feel disruptive?

  1. Don't end the connection right away. Use the timer as just an indicator and allow one party to be able to control when the connection ends.

  2. Create an alert to tell both parties that the connection will be lost, say 5 minutes before the time is up.

I like Option 1 because it's the least disruptive. However, this conference call is pre-paid (say, 15 minutes is $30). If the connection doesn't automatically disconnect, the conference time may exceed 15 minutes. And we are not able to collect additional charges as the service is pre-paid. There's no way to force the customer to pay surcharge / additional fees, after the conference is over. (Unless, we automatically deduct from their credit card, although, I'm not sure if this is ethical?)

How should we approach this problem?

  • 17
    Do it like in radio talk shows: Fade in an orchestra sound check track while fading out their voice until they can't possibly hear each other anymore and then terminate the call. – Traubenfuchs Jul 5 '16 at 12:04
  • 11
    What about something like this: This session will end in 5 minutes but if you would like to extend it by 15 minutes then please press the button below to authorize a charge of $30. Thank you. – MonkeyZeus Jul 5 '16 at 13:28
  • 2
    "Well, I really think that perhaps we sh [click]" – Robert Harvey Jul 6 '16 at 1:17
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    @Traubenfuchs, if you're going to use a fade, make sure you start after the paid-for time has elapsed, or I'm getting orchestral music where I paid for consultant time. – Mathieu K. Jul 6 '16 at 5:31
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    Forget the timer, scrap the business model, charge by time, and instead of distracting the user with warnings, alerts, and messages, just run a continuous low-profile banner at the bottom of the screen that shows the running total that the call is costing them. – J... Jul 6 '16 at 10:17
30

I personally feel the Second approach is a lot better.

This ensures that the party doesn't get to extend a call each time. Think of how many Consultants might extend time if you give them the control. It is biased towards both parties and might take a while to educate both of them to know who can extend the call and who can't and this might even lead to clients asking consultants to extend the call when there's no reason to.

Time is a valuable thing. When you are giving 15 minutes for both parties to speak, they will try to make sure that they cut down everything else and talk about important things that really matter shortened down. If you give them a warning before 5 minutes of disconnection, they will summarize their talk and probably discuss what can be done next or if the client needs to meet the consultant to proceed.

Let's say as a Client I have used all my 15 minutes and my call disconnected. Being a Prepaid service, don't actually disconnect the call but put it on hold and use a Payment screen allowing different time options to extend the call.

For example:

You have used all of your Prepaid time. The Consultant Mr. XYZ is still free to reconnect with for another 2 minutes.

Reconnect with Mr. XYZ for another 5 Minutes for $10?

  • 3
    During the last minutes before putting the call on hold, the screen could gradually start fading to black, so the user immediately sees that time is running out. You could even extend the audio only during a few minutes while the screen is black, so users get the opportunity to wrap up or reconnect with video enabled. – Gino van de Staaij Jul 5 '16 at 11:09
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    I noticed that you suggest an offer of 5 minutes for $10, rather than an additional 15 for an additional $30. This is a very good idea from a services perspective, for the somewhat self-explanatory reason that people who only need a few more minutes would hate to pay for ten minutes they won't use :) – recognizer Jul 5 '16 at 15:24
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    And how satisfied will the customer be when they find that their answer never quite comes in time and conveniently always requires an extra 10$? This sounds like a scam even when done with good intentions. – JamesRyan Jul 5 '16 at 15:25
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    @JamesRyan As far as Customer Satisfaction goes, it is relevant to how far does the company go and listen to the customers while still making profits. If most customers require an extra 10 minutes, the company should decide to add in those minutes to the actual time one receives with $30 As far as the question goes, additional minutes aren't considered at all and are left as an assumption that the solution will be obtained in 15 minutes, so I believe additional minutes are a plus if nothing in this case for the customer and the business. – Swapnil Borkar Jul 5 '16 at 16:15
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    @GinovandeStaaij I disagree. If a customer has paid $30 for 15 minutes he expects those 15 minutes to be of none less than superior quality without any fade to black gimmicks. Sure, fading to black will make the conversation pick up pace but it will reduce the quality the customer originally paid for. – Swapnil Borkar Jul 5 '16 at 16:17
14

I find this question also to consider the business model, not a pure UX question.

I mean, from the point of view of the user, for sure, the first, less disruptive, approach is better: "Hey, I can keep the connection w/o paying for it". On the other hand, from the point of view of the business, this is bad unless it is willing to take the cost for the, extended, unpaid time.

With this in mind, I think the service should make it clear to the customer that he cannot have the cake and eat it too. Meaning, he cannot expect the system to pay for the extended time.

So, I think there should be two payments models: One is pre-paid, then you get the countdown warning before the time is up, and the call ends. Second is pay-per-minute when the customer grant the system to charge him per minute. Also a combination of the two is OK.

8

I would suggest to mix both of the approaches.

Your goal is to provide excellent user experience and it should not be a big problem if you extend the call with 2 minutes or so. The important thing here is not the strict 15 minutes call but the happy user.

Imagine the user didn't understand something and needs additional 30-60 seconds more and just then the call drops... The customer will be very frustrated and probably won't come back. Even worse they may want a refund. This is bad UX and you want to avoid it.

In my opinion, the agent should be able to extend the call for free with fixed amount of time: 1 or 2 minutes so the customer gets the information he/she has paid for. The important thing is that the customer gets enough or even more information than promised so he will be happy and return again. Disruptions might only cause negative UX.

In addition, the time indicator is mandatory for that limited time and should be used.

  • 3
    Precisely. The best way to end the call on time is to give the user the info they need well within that time. This will require better approaches and/or more realistic time estimates. Imposing call limits will both stress out consultants trying to squeeze things in at the last minute and annoy customers who have the end of a solution chopped off. If you give an option for 10mins more for $ this will make it seem that you are holding the customer to ransom. – JamesRyan Jul 5 '16 at 15:22
3

If the business model says this has to be prepaid, I like the idea of a countdown timer on the edge of the frame that changes to yellow with 5 minutes left, red with 2 minutes left, and flashing red with 10 seconds left. This can be relatively unobtrusive but still informative.

If the call hits zero seconds left, kill the audio and provide the client with a 2 minutes window to extend the call.

1

Don’t cut off the call; just bill incrementally for extra time, and let the user end the call.

No matter how you spin it, or warn it in advance, having a call cut off will make most users unhappy. However, there’s a very well-established model for this, used by many professions: bill for the service, by time, at a clear pre-arranged rate.

Make the terms clear from the start: 15 minutes of calling is covered by the flat rate of $X; beyond that, call is billed at $Y/min. Warn when the 15 minutes is approaching; and indicate clearly when it’s up, with a reminder of the extended billing rate. This focuses the client to wrap up the call, but doesn’t take control out of their hands.

Note that this — keeping the call going, but billing for it automatically at a small incremental rate — is very different in effect from offering a large block of extension time at another flat rate. The latter may well also be good to offer, as part of your pricing structure — but it doesn’t help with the problem of how to end the call without alienating the user.

  • The large extension block isn't necessarily bad: in some businesses, it may be possible to carry over unused minutes. So you'd buy 15 minutes/$30, and if you'd need 17 minutes you'd buy another 15 minutes, use 2 minutes, and have 13 minutes left for the next call. Plenty of mobile phone plans work roughly like this. – MSalters Jul 6 '16 at 10:43
  • Mobile phone plans may follow this format, but that doesn't mean it's the best solution - customers have no other options when it comes to mobile phone companies and their pricing models as there's very little competition and the markets are monopolised - nowadays we're seeing more services with different pricing models (such as Ting in the US) show up because the standard model just isn't good for the customers. Especially with services like video conferences, there are hundreds of other services available for individuals, small businesses and enterprises in a heavily saturated market. – Liam Hammett Jul 6 '16 at 12:30
-1

Alarm clocks have a "snooze" button, so the alarm goes off, you should wake up - but you can choose to have an extra 5/10 minutes in bed.

Perhaps with your call, you could do a countdown timer as you'd suggested in the first case (although I'd keep it obviously counting down throughout the whole of the last couple of minutes).

Perhaps one or both parties might have access to the "snooze" button to add an extra 60 seconds if they need it. Naturally, the party who presses "snooze" could have a (small) fee for doing so. They could do it indefinitely, but it'd get really annoying to do it so encourage them to end the call naturally, without giving a hard cut-off. You also deter someone doing it just to keep a call going, since the "snoozer" is the one who pays.

  • Timed calls, but encourage snoozing. Seems legit, -1. – EKons Jul 7 '16 at 10:54
  • @ΈρικΚωνσταντόπουλος - not sure why the downvote - if it's a timed call, you don't want to encourage it to be any longer than that length of time, but allow it to be if that's required. The paid-snooze option gives the option of lengthening the call, but at an explicit cost to the user (ie allow but discourage) – Algy Taylor Jul 11 '16 at 9:54
  • You also deter someone doing it just to keep a call going, since the "snoozer" is the one who pays. You don't pay though, if you're not the "snoozer". – EKons Jul 11 '16 at 9:57

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