You’re reading hot dogs and eggs, a blog by Chris Gallo since 2014.

Multiple Choice

This post will take you about 6 minutes to read.

Which part of this sentence is grammatically incorrect?


A? B? C? D? Or E – no error at all?

Imagine 50 identical questions like that. Each question with five choices. That’s 250 potential answers.

Which of these words in spelled incorrectly?

A. committed B. exhilarate C. jewelery D. vacuum E. None of the above

Now add another 50 questions just like that. Another 250 potential answers.

100 questions. All multiple choice. Five choices. 500 potential answers. 40 minutes. A score of 70 or better is a passing grade.

Could you pass this test in 40 minutes?

I couldn’t for the longest time. And it was a requirement to get my undergraduate degree from the Journalism School at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The dreaded spelling and grammar test. Albeit, there’s likely a spelling or grammar error in this post, but my problem wasn’t exactly spelling or grammar.

It was multiple choices and the time.

My first crack at the test? I answered 64 questions in 40 minutes. I couldn’t answer enough questions to earn a passing grade.

I fell victim to anxiety. There were so many choices that I would analyze every choice. I found myself spending 5 or 10 minutes on one question.

Paralysis by analysis.

A typical day in customer support involves different types of interactions. You’re presented with situations and have to determine the best way to help.

For example, you could encounter the following:

All of these are missing information. The best answer to each of these interactions is a question. And it’s likely not just one question. It’s multiple questions.

Have you tried resetting your password? Can you check your spam folder to make sure the reset email didn’t end up there? Can you please take a screenshot of where you see this error? Can you please share an example of data that is missing?

The questions give you a better idea of how to help.

But the tricky part about customer support is the faucet never turns off. It’s always running, meaning there is always someone that could be in need of your help.

Not all problems are created equal. A feature request doesn’t hold the same urgency as someone who cannot access their account. But everyone deserves to be helped.

So how can you help and manage all the requests that come in?

You ask questions. Lots of questions. But is it possible to ask too many questions at once?

Think of the last time you became anxious. What created that feeling for you?

Bob Moesta explores the feeling of anxiety in his jobs-to-be-done framework. He examines why people choose to buy a certain product or service, and details this through a tool titled the Forces of Progress.

Justin Jackson created a handy diagram to illustrate the Forces of Progress. The gist is that making a decision is stressful. Because what if you make the wrong choice?

In a conversation on the Critical Path podcast, Moesta shares how every new idea brings anxiety. He gives the example of a family that is moving and needs to choose between different moving companies.

Moesta is part of a home building company that sets to understand their customers. He describes all that goes into a decision of choosing a moving company. And how he and his home building company helped these people make choices by eliminating anxiety.

Here’s an excerpt of the conversation:

Because all of a sudden it’s like will they be gentle? Are they insured? If they break something, what will happen?

So there’s all those kind of things that you need to make sure you understand, even though choice is important. Too much choice is actually paralyzing.

On the home building side, we’d sometimes have to make a thousand decisions about cabinets and flooring and carpeting. And simplifying that and saying there are three packages and this is where they fit. Just pick the color and we’ll do everything else for you.

Over-choice actually creates more anxiety and non-consumption.

Bob Moesta, Jobs-to-be-done

Too many choices can do more harm than good.

A great example of this is choosing what to order from different restaurants. Let’s compare the two menus of Cheesecake Factory and In-N-Out Burger.

There’s over 10 categories on the Cheesecake Factory menu. 10! You can order pizza, spicy cashew chicken, a rib-eye-steak, or shrimp and chicken gumbo from the same place. That’s a lot of choices.

In-N-Out Burger’s menu is simple. Burgers, fries, and shakes. There’s more options on their secret menu. But it’s a not a hard choice to make. You know what you’re getting when you go to In-N-Out.

This is clear in your product. A great user experience often involves very little choice. Like an In-N-Out Burger.

If anything and everything is possible in your product, it will probably create lots of anxiety. See Cheesecake Factory.

But is the same true in how you interact with customers?

After a customer wrote in that data was missing from their account, I responded over email quickly and asked several questions. 5 total.

Do you have an example of what is missing? Are you using any 3rd party integrations? When did you notice this was missing? Have you checked the trash in your account? Are other members of your account seeing the data missing too?

Holy questions batman. I just gave a customer a multiple choice test and created lots of anxiety.

If something is missing, you’re already in a state of anxiety. There’s no need to increase that anxiety.

I am guilty of asking too many questions without remembering it’s a conversation.

If your friend walked up to you and said I lost my keys, you wouldn’t ask five questions without getting an answer first. You ask a question and get a reply.

The same is true when working with customers.

Find the most important question to ask and start there.


That’s the correct answer to the question at the beginning of this post.

A secret behind the spelling and grammar test is you could take it an unlimited amount of times before earning a passing grade.

I think I took the test over 20 times. It took a while to curb my anxiety, but my grade was a 92 the last time I took it.

A few years after I graduated, the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication changed the spelling and grammar test. The format was adjusted and an additional 10 minutes was added.

Because too many choices can cause more harm than good.