Just tell me how much time I have to wait

One of the things that irritate me particularly is to go to an office and being asked to wait. What makes me a bit angry in those situations is that I just have to wait, but don’t know how much time. Should I take my laptop out of my bag and start working a bit? Can I make that important phone call now, or will they come just when I start talking? I think people do not like the uncertainty that much. And this is even truer when it comes to administrative stuff. We just want to know how it will be done and how much time we are going to lose.

So as a business owner what can you do? When your staff asks people to wait, let them tell the client how much time they have to wait. It’s that stupid. But this simple trick has an enormous effect.

In one of his TED talks, Rory Sutherland explains the value of this simple tip:

The single best thing the London Underground did in terms of improving passenger satisfaction per pound spent wasn’t faster, more frequent, later running trains, it was putting dot matrix display boards on the platform to tell you how long you were going to have to wait for your next train.

Telling people how much time they have to wait is one of the cheapest ways to improve customer satisfaction. And here we have a real large-scale case study.

From simple to complex implementation

There are many ways of implementing this. You can just inform people when they enter and tell them how much time they have to wait. Like in Disneyland. Just put a sign saying: 20 minutes wait from here. If you have no queue, then let the receptionist tell each new visitor how much time he has to wait. If you have a bit of money, then do like the Swiss Post. Let people take a ticket and see when it’s their turn. If you do that, you have to be sure that people see clearly the screen showing the next number that will be served.

What we see here, is that the more you make it technological, the more problems you will have to solve. 

Just keep it super simple. Tell the average waiting time. But don’t forget to add a few extra minutes. You will make people happy when they see that you are faster than expected. As described in another article, you can manage frustration easily. Tell your customers to expect little from you. And then deliver more than what people expect.

So, how much time will you have to wait for my next article? Wait for next week :)