How to Create the Perception of Urgency

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Summary:

My lunch-mate and I were seated quickly. Time passed, yet no one took our order. I’m not the most patient person in the world, but on this occasion, I was willing to wait my turn.

Why? Because the waitresses were dashing about breathlessly. They never just sauntered. They never moseyed. They never even dillydallied. They hustled and bustled, racing from table to table, into the kitchen, out of the kitchen, somehow managing never to spill a drink or drop a tray.

My lunch-mate and I were seated quickly. Time passed, yet no one took our order. I’m not the most patient person in the world, but on this occasion, I was willing to wait my turn.

Why? Because the waitresses were dashing about breathlessly. They never just sauntered. They never moseyed. They never even dillydallied. They hustled and bustled, racing from table to table, into the kitchen, out of the kitchen, somehow managing never to spill a drink or drop a tray.

Finally, a waitress came to our table. She apologized for the lengthy delay and explained that two waitresses had called in sick, so the remaining three were doing the work of five people. She took our order, apologized again, and promised she’d bring our lunch as quickly as she could.

Now, a cynical sort might contend that these waitresses only appeared to be working at top speed. “Maybe,” this Cynical Sort might claim, “they rush around while in sight of customers, but once in the kitchen, they twiddle their thumbs, sip wine, saunter, mosey, and dillydally—and then dart out of the kitchen again, huffing and puffing.”

I doubted it, though. These waitresses were clearly doing their best under trying circumstances.

But they were also doing something else. They were reinforcing the positive impact of the perception of urgency. There’s something about seeing people giving it their all that makes delays easier to tolerate. So the question arises: How can you communicate urgency to your own customers if your job doesn’t lend itself to scurrying from table to table heaving a tray of lunch munchies?

Actually, it’s easier than you might think, because communicating urgency is not about setting the speed dial to high. Rather, it’s about interacting with customers in a way that says you’re truly listening to them. It’s about conveying an attitude that says you take their needs seriously. It’s about demonstrating through what you say and do that you haven’t flung their problems into the Black Hole.

How do you do this? By keeping customers informed about the status of matters that are important to them. By providing vital information about outages, delays, malfunctions and crucial changes that will affect them. By letting them know what they can expect from you and when—and by telling them sooner rather than later if the “what” or “when” changes.

Your words, tone of voice, and behavior make a huge difference in whether customers believe you’re treating their needs with urgency. What, when and how you communicate can generate customer satisfaction even when multiple demands, competing priorities, or insufficient resources prevent you from doing all you’d like to.

Alternatively, you could fill a tray with BLTs, hoist the tray on high, and dash breathlessly to and fro.

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