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Alleviate waiting customers' frustrations and learn how to handle oversubscription by Phil Hesketh

If something is worth having, it's worth waiting for.

Everything comes to he who waits.

Better late than never.

True or False?

Imagine your pizza is delivered at midnight instead of the expected time of 8pm. It’s not better late than never, is it? Often we want what we want now or we don’t want it at all. Gratification has to be instant, not in a minute. We all hate queuing at the supermarket. So much so one supermarket chain promises to open another checkout if there’s more than one person in front of you.

The real problem is that our expectation levels on service are far higher than they used to be and are now sometimes the only real differentiator between businesses. If your customers don’t like waiting, they’re more likely to vote with their feet than make a complaint.

So, how do you alleviate the frustration of your customers' wait?

Well, firstly, don’t do nothing. Instead, explain. Explain why there’s a hold-up and what you’re doing about it. Customers realise very quickly that somebody knows why they are waiting and often believe that they are not given information because the company just doesn’t care enough to tell them.

Secondly, keep people posted on developments. When people are given details of time or alternatives, for example, they then take back control and focus on what they can do about it rather than just focus on you.

And thirdly, be available. Frustrations that are not allowed to be expressed won’t be suppressed – they will only raise the temperature.

When Gavin Ingham and I promoted our public seminar at The Magic Circle earlier this month we didn’t expect to sell out all the tickets in the first forty eight hours. But we did! So we decided to create a ‘Stand By Ticket’ that allows potential attendees (35 and growing) to register their details. Unfortunately, they will only be able to attend our seminar on ‘The New Rules of Selling’ on November 25th if someone cancels.

So our seminar is worth going to and, therefore, it’s worth waiting for but for sure not everything comes to he who waits.

Our lesson? Appreciate that as soon as oversubscription occurs more and more people want to go. This combination of ‘can’t have’ and social pressure is one of the things we’ll talk about at the event.

I’m genuinely sorry if you wanted to attend but didn’t respond quickly enough.

And as for alleviating the frustration of a customer’s wait, according to David Maister of Harvard who’s an expert on ‘queue psychology’ (I kid you not), there are four key ways of dealing with the waiting process. They are: animate; discriminate; automate; and obfuscate.

Animate: give them something to watch or listen to like a video or music since time goes much more quickly when you’re being entertained. Discriminate: give priority to certain groups of people such as small children, the elderly and motivational speakers in a hurry, damn you. Automate: give people something to do whilst waiting, such as pressing buttons on a handset. Frustrating though it might seem, it does give the impression that you’re getting closer to being served. And finally, obfuscate is what airlines do when they move you from one area of the departure lounge to another without really telling you what the delay is and how long it’s going to be.

And if all that fails you could always employ more people and train them well.

Just a thought.