Andrea Belk Olson Andrea Belk Olson

Transparency creates a better customer experience

We’ve all been in the hospital waiting room. You sometimes seem to sit there forever. You see people come and go, and maybe you see your appointment time come and go. You don’t know whether they’re running behind, forgot you, or simply have an emergency to deal with. While a changing schedule flow is understandable, it doesn’t bode well for the proverbial customer experience. But transparency can make all the difference.

There was one time when I was going into the hospital for a simple blood draw. I checked in and found my way to the waiting room. I sat there and saw a screen that showed my initials, an abbreviation of the services I was receiving, my check-in time, and my projected registration time – when I’d get the paperwork processed, which afterward I’d get shuffled into my appointment.

The transparency provided me insight and understanding about how the process was going to go, along with how fast they were going that morning. It also provided me the insight to know when to speak up if something wasn’t right – if my time passed and I still wasn’t attended to, or if my name wasn’t showing up, I would know to act, rather than wait until someone came to me. It established expectations and made the wait go by much more quickly.

The hospital applied the Psychology of Queueing – a simple yet effective way to alleviate the negative feelings that accompany waiting. According to behavioral science, uncertain waits seem longer than known, finite waits. So to address this, setting the expectation of wait time reduced perceived wait time. It also enabled patients to do things like make a phone call or grab a coffee if the wait was projected to be a bit longer.

The counter-argument to this is when wait times are ridiculously long. We’ve all been there when we’re on hold for customer service and the wait time is projected to be 2 hours or more. But transparency can help here too – just in a different way. Instead of simply providing information about wait time, provide other options or paths to resolution. Many companies do this now with automated callbacks and online self-service options.

So make your customer experience better – whether it be something as simple as waiting on hold or communicating the status of an order – provide transparency. I got called in a few minutes early, completed my paperwork, and was in and out in no time. But even if things had been delayed, the transparency provided confirmation that they knew I was there, and action was being taken. After all, anything that can make your experience at the hospital better is a good thing.

About the Author

Andrea Belk Olson is a keynote speaker, author, differentiation strategist, behavioral scientist, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of three books, including her most recent, What To Ask: How To Learn What Customers Need but Don’t Tell You, released in June 2022.

She is a 4-time ADDY® award winner and host of the popular Customer Mission podcast. Her thoughts have been continually featured in news sources such as Chief Executive MagazineEntrepreneur MagazineHarvard Business Review, Rotman Magazine, World Economic Forum, and more. Andrea is a sought-after speaker at conferences and corporate events throughout the world. She is a visiting lecturer and startup coach at the University of Iowa, a TEDx presenter, and TEDx speaker coach. She is also an instructor at the University of Iowa Venture School.

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