Nudge of the Week: Progress updates

How often have you been waiting around for a train, or a cab, or a friend, and you became extremely anxious as you waited? Why are they late? How late are they going to be? Are they in danger? Are they incompetent? And so on.

Your anxiety isn’t being derived from the lateness itself, but the uncertainty that surrounds it. You have no idea whether you’ll be waiting five minutes or an hour. It’s this uncertainty that drives the fear and frustration. That’s why, as a business, you should try to limit not only your lateness, but also to give as much information about progress as possible.

Take, for example, the Toronto subway system. Up until a few years ago, you would get to the station, and you had no idea if you just missed a train, or if the next train is just around the corner. You start worrying about whether you’ll make it to your appointment on time. This is anxiety. Anxiety is bad.

But the Toronto Transit Commission solved this problem with a simple clock that estimates the time of the next train. While you might be unhappy to learn that the next train is running late, but you’ll still be happier than if you were left completely out in the dark.

Another way to think of this is to go back to your high school math tests. The more you show your work, the more brownie points you’ll earn from your customers.