Time is an interesting thing. We often describe it as an object, a real thing that we could literally pick up, yet it is just a construct of our minds. In the Western world, we have made it mathematically quantifiable, something that can be measured, sometimes in quantities of sand running through an egg timer yet we also know it is all a matter of perception. If you ask a child about their summer holidays it can feel like time stretches out luxuriously ahead of them; the days go on forever. Yet if you ask an adult in the midst of their working career they will tell you that time literally flies or seems to slip through their fingers.
So time feels different according to who you are and what is happening in that moment. it isn’t really real; just a construction that we have made to make sense of our days, yet we often presume that everyone thinks about time in the same way. Our five minutes is the same as anyone else’s five minutes. Yet even if we are aware of this truth, it is something that we pay little attention to in terms of our customers and is a often the source of tension and sometimes the trigger for complaints.
Imagine the following scenarios –
- A patient lying in bed waiting for the busy nurse to come
- A customer waiting to get through the call waiting to talk to their bank
- Customer Ordering online
I came up with numerous scenarios and when time was involved all involved the using up of one person’s resource and when we consider that we think of time as a tangible thing, it is almost the physical act of the giving or waste of that precious resource, so that time transforms from being a concept and moves into being a currency. This then gets us into the concept of considering how we are actually paying for the wait and is it worth it? Is it value for what it is costing?
A patient will more often than not think that the cost of time is worth it if they are getting good value for it. They are getting the answers they need and the appropriate amount of attention for the cost of their time. The customer waiting to get through call waiting will usually feel the same and again the customer ordering online will take what metaphorically cost out how much time it takes to order online as opposed to the time it takes to actually physically go to the shop. How much time can they save in their piggy bank to use elsewhere? It is something that we hold as true yet rarely think about in terms of our customers and the frustration it causes them, we generally only think about our own time factors and the cost to us. We may think about the actually cost of a service and whether that is affordable but not the time cost. Would we ask customers to hand over their credit card and tell them we will just keep taking from it until we have decided that we have got enough? And if we did, what would happen? Yet this is what we do in terms of time. And yes, we may not always know how much time something will take and sometimes we don’t always know how much something will cost, but a good organisations will give a quote and then go back and check when more information is available. Otherwise, we are being like the proverbial plumber (sorry plumbers!) who whistle through their teeth and say this is going to cost you…..
So what if we paid attention to the cost we are asking customers to pay in terms of time and treat their resource as the precious commodity it is? What difference would this make to their satisfaction?