Several years ago, I drove a friend to the emergency room at a hospital. We checked in with the nurse and waited around for a while until a doctor saw him. The time we spent waiting (a couple of hours? I don’t remember exactly) was mostly spent wondering if the nurse had forgotten about us.
Compare that to a recent trip to the hospital: I hurt my lower back playing frisbee last weekend and on Thursday night the pain became so unbearable that I had to go to emergency. As soon as I entered, I was met by a security guard who had me fill out my basic information and who seated me in the triage area. Then about fifteen minutes later, I was called up to a processing clerk who checked my information and asked about allergies and stuff like that, and gave me an initial triage bracelet. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, a nurse met with me to ask for details about my injury, to check my temperature and blood pressure, and then to make a final triage assessment. Then, thirty to forty minutes later, I met with the doctor who did whatever doctors do to make us feel better. (Basically a couple of prescriptions to nice, strong medicine).
My experience was very different: Even though yesterday’s experience in the hospital required more people, I felt like I was being moved along in the process. There was a “touchpoint” every fifteen-to-twenty minutes where more information was gathered. Now, some of the information might have easily been gathered by the processing clerk instead of the initial triage nurse, and some of the information that the triage nurse gathered could have been gathered by the doctor instead. But I don’t think this was a “make work” situation. These were distinct events that helped me see and feel that my “file” was being moved in the right direction. Without a doubt, an efficiency expert might have something to say about this but as a patient, I felt like there was forward motion. It kept me from feeling frustrated and impatient.
HOW THIS RELATES TO YOUR SERVICE BUSINESS
Your business has a process and your customers are in that process. When someone buys from you, they want to take delivery right away, which isn’t always possible in service-based businesses. (As a writer, for example, it might take me days or weeks to deliver something that someone bought today).
Service businesses can draw their inspiration from my hospital experience by making sure that customers encounter a touchpoint from time to time throughout the waiting period.
It doesn’t have to be much — a quick phone call; a “here’s an update” email — but it will help your customer to feel confident in the attention you give to them and to sense the value of the relationship you have with them.