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How imperfect information affects customers

You have boarded your flight home, musing through your tablet or book, waiting to take off. You noticed that the flight crew has finalized their check of the cabin, but you sit at the gate motionless. Three minutes, five minutes pass and you leave the gate and taxi down the runway before stopping. Five minutes, ten minutes pass and you are still on the tarmac. You grow restless and frustrated, powerless and just want to know how much longer it will be, but the overhead speaker remains silent.
We have all been in this exact scenario, my latest being on a flight from Charlotte to Columbus. As I sat waiting, wondering when we would actually take off I began to think. A lot of information is being processed between flight operations, the cockpit, and the flight crew. All of these parties know exactly what the delay is, why it exists, and a general idea of when it will be resolved. The pilot can see the entire picture – the environment in front of him, and the information passed from the tower. But, the customer sits anxiously, with imperfect information.
In economic terms, what we have in this scenario is an inefficient market. Information is know at one end of the spectrum, but not the other. The pilot could resolve this by a simple update over the air: β€œthe tower has notified us that there is a delay, we are currently fourth in line, we should expect to take off in the next 10 minutes.” Indeed, some of the best flights I have been on have a pilot who balances perfectly between over and under informing the passengers. A simple amount of information puts passengers at ease, making them feel less helpless.
This theory can be applied to other sectors as well, think of your customers – whether external or internal – and try to imagine a time where you held information that could be disseminated to them to ease an anxiety they might have. In IT this could be the time to resolution for a help ticket, a roadmap of product releases that could help their process. In the service industry, how long the wait might be. In financial services, the…
Communication is a a learnable skill, and one that needs to be honed. Practice taking a timeout and identify one or two pieces of information that your customers could benefit from knowing. The reaction may surprise you.

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