People like to be left in the loop

Last week, I was involved in a customer service duel. This time, however, the roles were reversed. Instead of making a complaint I was taking a complaint–and dealing with a massive misunderstanding over whose responsibility a particular job was.

I work for an airport, and one of our contract vendors complained about an issue with their store. Long story short, the maintenance guy was convinced that it was not our issue and simply didn’t go–while the customer (rightfully so) tried to talk him into showing up.

This is where I come in. I got a call on an otherwise calm day and looked into a Pandora’s Box of issues. Having to call every and any contact I could to get that issue fixed was a great way to kill an hour and taught me a valuable lesson about people.

People like to know what is going on around them. At a minimum, we like to have  a sense of control–even if that control is never really in our hands.

When you’re talking about waiting, that control is obtained through information.

The Pizza Connection

Domino’s Pizza’s progress bars do wonders for the psyche of its customers. The pizza won’t get made any faster or any slower. The only difference is that you can see the phase your pie is in. It’s a tiny touch, sure, but one that can have a great impact on keeping people happy.

People like information. At least, as Dr. Brad Myers of the University of Toronto want us to believe in his paper:

The importance of percent-done progress indicators for computer-human interfaces as well as what Lightspeed Research wants us to know.

What does that mean for us?

Regardless of what age you are, where you work, where you go to school, or what you do for a living, you are going to have to work on a team project at some point in your career. Thinking back to past team projects, the top complaints I heard were:

  1. Not pulling their weight
  2. Waiting until the last minute
  3. Incorrect work
  4. Lack of communication

Number 4 especially is important here. While number ones can just go f_ck themselves reevaluate their priorities, numbers 2-3 can be fixed by focusing on number 4.

All if means is that, as teammates, we have to let people know where we are: what we’ve done, what snags we’ve hit, what we have left to do and whether or not we need help. The end result is that the entire team can finish its project quicker–and more peacefully than they otherwise would be able to.

So keeping people in the loop: beyond good advice for a roller coaster designer, this is also prime advice for life.

Carolina Cyclone at Carowinds
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