Sunday, April 21, 2019

Customers Expectations & Managing Impatience

The Ola App says your driver will arrive in 3 mins. It’s already 4.26 mins and you are irked.

The Swiggy App says your food is on the way and shall reach at say, 8.05 pm. It’s already 8.08pm and you are calling the driver frantically to figure out where your food is.

You spent one hour taking trials of 17 dresses and finally picked up 3 at the Department store in the fanciest Mall in town and have been impatiently waiting at the billing queue for over 10 mins. During a “sale” season, the wait time trebles and a few customers are already dropping their shopping bags.

Are you still staring at the guy getting his hair-cut for the past 20 mins and wondering why would the stylist take so much time to complete the "job"?


Sounds familiar? Well, you are not alone. An article in Nautilus has an easy explanation: “Slow things drive us crazy because the fast pace of society has warped our sense of timing.” Does it mean humans first experienced impatience when life became fast-paced sometime in the 19th century? No, nature gave us impatience as a useful instinct. In fact, animals also show impatience. “It’s an internal timer that tells us when we have waited too long for something,” says the article. A webpage took 4 seconds to load in 2006, 2 seconds four years back and 0.25 seconds today. We are still impatient until it loads. How true!

The iconic Sambhar at Ratna Café, a popular restaurant in Chennai which is over 6 decades’ old takes a few hours to be prepared every morning to get that consistency and a lasting taste. The iconic Lassi from Punjab is stirred for hours together while the Tanjore Spice powders and Chettinad Pickles take days to be prepared. Although I am a pure vegetarian when it comes to food, I have heard how it takes 10-12 hours to prepare the Hyderabadi Haleem dish. Remember, an egg has to spend 270 days inside a womb to be given birth as a human baby. Good things take time. Great things take eternity.


So why do humans get upset upon small delays? Why do we forget that unforeseen and unnatural delays are normal? And even if someone is actually late, why fuss so much? If the delivery boy turns up later than proposed, what would actually happen if the customer waits a few more minutes? If the Cashier at the till is slow in his/her work (probably a beginner), why cannot we wait a few more minutes and encourage them, rather than chide & complain?

I am not a psychologist, so I wouldn’t be able to answer many of those questions. But I can probably say how Retailers and Customers are handling this or perhaps supposed to. With so much of tech taking over our PoS billing solutions, why wouldn’t Department stores and Hypermarkets invest on small benches for customers to sit near the check-out areas, quite similar to Hotels? Even the smallest Lodge in town has a seating area near the Cashier while Star hotels have experience centers such as an Aquarium. This, in my opinion is the most important reason why Customers shrug the Trolley and prefer the Mobile Apps for shopping. It’s the impatience of standing in Q that drives customers to choose one over the other. While it is clichéd to say Men are bored at Department stores while their wives or girlfriends are shopping, I am yet to see (In India) a store which has a seating area or Foosball tables for men to hang around, let around a café or a bar. I don’t know of a shopping centre which has an affordable play area or Crèches, save for the one off “Fun City” outlets which end up being more expensive to hang around for an hour or so than actually shopping & dining together. 


In services businesses like a Salon or a Restaurant, chances are lower to replace the physical presence. While the Food hailing Apps can deliver even the most exquisite delicacy in town all the way to your private dining area at home, the “Dining Experience” is something that cannot be replaced. However, Restaurants take way longer time to prepare, serve the food and send the bill than it is supposed to, thus making Customers lose their cool and get impatient while leaving, although after a sumptuous and a happy meal. Sadly, most Restaurant owners and Customers fail to understand the difference between a find-dine and casual dine restaurant, forget what is a Quick Service Restaurant. 

Ultimately, impatience begins when expectations are mismanaged. So, Hello Retailers – set your business expectations right to your patrons – like a simple placard on the dining table (or even on the Menu card itself) which states the estimated time for serving the food; or like at Airports, where you estimate the waiting time for Security Check or walking time to reach the Boarding Gate.

Setting the right expectations can turn the experience to be much better. In Retail or in our personal lives. Isn't it?

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