Just tell me what’s going on

We have a basic human need to know what’s happening around us. More and more, companies are addressing this need by exposing parts of their process that never saw the light of day in the past. Done well, it reduces anxiety and helps make customers into fans of whatever company they’re engaging with.  Three recent experiences illustrated this.


I wrote up my Mailbox app experience in a recent post. I signed up for their new service and was given a moment-by-moment view of the number of people ahead of me in line and the size of the queue behind me. By knowing where I was in their process, I could enjoy watching myself rise to the top. Rather than feeling I was in an information void, I felt empowered no matter how long the wait.

United Airlines

Airplanes taxiingWhile waiting on the runway at John Wayne Airport, the pilot always announced that the passengers can tune to Channel 9 to hear air traffic controllers communicating with the pilots. The more I get used to it, the more I understand the calls and can pick out my flight. I’m aware of the congestion and the challenges and I know my crew is doing their best to take off on time. I never blame United for the delays once we push back from the gate.

My local taxi

I always use the same taxi service to get to the airport.  I’ve been conditioned to expect two texts – one when the taxi is dispatched and once when it’s outside my house.  Recently, as it got to be the time when the taxi should arrive I saw no dispatch text.  I called the company and was told they were very busy and hadn’t yet dispatched anyone. Five minutes of quick improvisation on my part and my spouse was driving me to the airport with kids in the back seat.

In this together

Take this approach and apply it to most services we received from our brands of choice or even within our enterprise. Giving people knowledge of the process and its progress is a remarkable combination that calms the nerves and creates a sense that we’re in the situation together, executing side by side. It makes an experience far more personal and repeat business more likely.

But here’s the rub…first we’d have to know our processes and be able to share them. That could be a big first step for some industries like healthcare and government, where opaqueness is  legendary but needs to change. Keep in mind that once they make it public, not only do they have to follow it, but they have to ‘make it work.’

That’s provocative, no?


Tags: ,

Categories: Customer Service, Process Management

Author:Tom Molyneux

A business process strategist with a focus on real-time event management.

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2 Comments on “Just tell me what’s going on”

  1. February 12, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    I agree completely. I always try to keep customers up to date on whats happening. My theory: address potential problems early and they won’t become big problems…

  2. February 12, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Scott, thanks for the feedback. Agreed about using this to keep problems from growing. My taxi experience – If they just showed up late, I would have really had to scramble to make my plane, as it was, a little early adjustment and things went fine.

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