When two minutes feels like ten minutes

Posted: 6th March, 2023 in Case Studies, Communications, Customer Service, Personal effectiveness, Sales , Time Management, Training and mentoring

A number of years ago I read an article that stated, “When a customer has been left unattended for two minutes, they will often believe they have been waiting for ten minutes”.

Having reflected upon my own experiences as a customer, I can certainly say I have often been left waiting in various receptions, restaurants, shops and even hotel lobbies over the years. So, I can honestly agree with this statement as I relate to it.

Rather like watching a kettle boil, it seems that time slows right down in these circumstances. The sense of being ignored can trigger many different emotions from feeling upset, undervalued, frustrated, anxious or even angry. As a result, people genuinely believe they have been ignored for far longer than the actual time. 

Interestingly, whilst discussing the subject on one of my training workshops I heard a very remarkable story. My customer explained they had also been aware of this declaration. And they had a very relevant incident within their business, proving it to be true.

The story goes that one quiet mid-week morning, they had two staff members working in one of their retail stores. One employee was helping a customer and the other person was busy unpacking boxes and filling shelves. As it happened a shopper came into the shop, picked something up and went up to the till to pay. The person stacking the shelves felt they couldn’t leave the boxes lying on the floor due to health and safety reasons. They also recognised the client as one of their regulars and assumed the customer would be okay waiting, whilst they finished emptying the box.

Once completed, the staff member went up to the cash desk to serve the customer. Instead, they got an earful. The customer was really irate and felt unappreciated, telling the worker they were waiting ten minutes.

Unfortunately, an argument began and it got pedantic about time, with the employee saying it was only two minutes. Unfortunately, the situation escalated right up to the Managing Director. 

As it happens the company has cameras at each till, so management were able to see the full story unfold on screen. What they discovered was that the customer was in fact waiting two minutes. Yet, they were fully convinced it was ten minutes – highlighting the trueness of the claim made in the original article.

Needless to say, the organisation fully appreciated that the customer was left waiting far too long. And took the necessary steps to resolve the situation to the customer’s satisfaction.

They also reviewed all their customer service protocols and induction training. They instilled the standard that all customers must be acknowledged within 15 to 30 seconds of their arrival into each shop. And also to look up and smile….

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