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Good things come to those who wait

Good things come to those who wait

A piece of research came out earlier this year focussing on the growing impatience of the British consumer. Apparently we ‘snap’ if we need to wait more than 24 minutes for food to be served after first ordering and woe betide anyone who takes longer than 5 minutes to serve us at a bar.

With findings like this regularly cropping up, it is unsurprising that today’s organisations appear hell bent on instant gratification because that’s what they believe their customers want. And ask any customer – they’ll say give me what I want and give it to me now. But I wonder if the truth is a little more nuanced than that.

A couple of months ago, I was at a talk given by Dan Ariely – the behavioural economist. Dan’s talks are always hugely insightful (and entertaining) but I was struck by one particular nugget. He talked about the display of results on web searches. A specific example he raised was that of Kayak – the travel search engine. Research found that search results taking up to 50 seconds were perceived to be “better” than instant results. The little spinning wheel (or in some cases the little running person) helps us to believe that someone has ‘worked harder’. In other words, if we perceive someone has expended a bit more effort, then our perception of value increases.

Of course when we – um – pause – to think this through, we can think of countless examples of where there is a direct correlation between anticipation and perceived value. Think of the wait for a meal in a good restaurant. There is the ‘sweet spot’ where the amount of wait creates just the right anticipation for the perceived quality of the meal.

So rather than put more speed into our service encounters, perhaps we almost need to engineer a little…….. pause. (Note the emphasis on little.) Some organisations have been doing this for years. In his book, Circle of Innovation, Tom Peters talks about the Ritz Carlton Pause – where every encounter with a member of staff included a direct look in the eyes and an almost imperceptible pause before either asking after a guest’s needs or responding to their query. I guess in today’s parlance, we would call this ‘mindful service’. One that is authentic and truly responsive to one’s needs.

There is certainly something powerful about a deliberate and well-planned moment of anticipation. And we need to look no further than Apple for inspiration, who have managed to build in moments of positive anticipation into virtually every moment of truth – even the opening of an iPhone box.

But pausing for effect does not just need to be for the good times. Perhaps it is even more important when dealing with problems. Somehow when we have an instant resolution to a problem, we wonder if we should have ‘held out for more’. It is of course a dangerous game of chicken – one person’s perceived value is another person’s frustration.

The key to all of this - as with so much else in customer experience – is to learn to understand how our customers react and interact with our brand. Instant results without customer understanding merely makes us feel like another number in a queue. A little metaphorical ‘ta-dah’ – a sense of “look what we’ve done for you” – can go a long way in creating a perception of personalised experiences. But make sure you stay authentic – it’s a fine line between anticipation and manipulation.

So – you heard it here first. Hurry up and…….. wait.

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