Slaying the Customer Discomfort Beast

Image result for dinosaur clip artHave you ever had a medical test and afterwards had to wait days or a week for the results?  How did it feel during that period?  If the test was to determine the seriousness of some pain or niggle, I know most of us experience some amount of anxiety, worry, or discomfort at minimum.

This same thing happens all of the time to customers.  A classic version is the old “We’ll be there between the hours of 12 and 4.”  Frustrated at the lack of certainty, you wait uncomfortably for someone to arrive.  It’s inconvenient and you’ve probably had to take time off from work or cancel some other engagement.

How about the times you’ve called some help desk and been assured that your issue will be resolved yet were given no idea of when or how long it will take?  You hang up the phone and then begin making up scenarios in your head, usually worst-case scenarios that create anxiety and discomfort.

What about the times when your power goes out, you report it, and hours or even a day later, nobody seems to have a clue when the lights will be back on?  The thought of all of your frozen food going bad and all of the money you’ll have to spend on eating out takes discomfort to anger.

These feelings are not just due to people being overly sensitive or having unreasonable expectations, it’s how we’re wired.  Our brains are built to look for threats, danger or risks, even ones that are small like not knowing when the cable repair person will arrive.  And because of the uncertainty and the feeling that we don’t matter enough to be a priority, the brain says, “Alert: threat, danger, risk!!!” To the brain, these little things can be as powerful as more definitive threats like a lion, tiger or bear, and can cause reactions that will not favor your business.

Funny though, the solution can be very simple.  The cable TV folks could simply schedule the repair for a definite time.  The help desk you called could tell you how long it will take to fix the problem.  The electric company could give realistic estimates on how long it will take to get your power restored.  All of these anxiety prone situations could be remedied by the service company setting some expectations so that customers don’t feel in the threatening darkness.

Where are places in the service you provide where you could set better expectations for the people you serve?  Where could you create more certainty?  Where could you soothe the nerves by proactively providing more information?

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