"We will be there between 1-5pm next Saturday."
"Our delivery truck will be there between 8AM and 9PM on March 28th."
"The estimated delivery time for the item you ordered is between March 30 and April 8."This kind of thing has to stop. It treats service as an add-on, not a fundamental element of a business in relationship with its customers. This corporate body language expresses they care more about selling a promise before they have my money than delivering on it after they do. Businesses that needlessly pass along burdens like this to their customers will not last long in this rapidly changing world.
Why Fudging Time Is ToxicWith all that time waiting for these services to arrive a customer gets to ask a lot of "why" questions that cast doubt on the service and its brand: Why the absurd range of times rather than a specific time? What is it about their service that they can't predict how long tasks will take? Why are they covering their ass? Do they have high turnover and a lot of untrained staff providing this service? These businesses don't recognize the cost of fudging timeframes with customers, but they should. Leaving customers waiting and guessing creates uncertainty and stress, as well as the perception that they are wasting people's time. What is memorable about a company that does this? The perception that they don't really care about the people they serve, just their dollars.
A Simple Solution: Offer Specific TimesWhat if instead of dodging customers Sears, PG&E and IKEA went out of their way to offer specific times like these?
"Expect us to arrive at 3pm next Saturday. A repair like this typically takes less than one hour to complete."
"Our delivery truck should arrive at 5PM on March 28th. We will give you a courtesy call before 12pm either confirming that time or offering to deliver it a little earlier!"
"As we stated when you placed your order, you should expect to receive your item no later than April 5th. To speed up delivery on your order or check on its status, click here."
I can easily see these companies struggling to do this. They would have reasons why they have to fudge times, why it'd be too expensive to change operations, to adopt new policies, etc. They need to get over these hangups and adopt some leadership on behalf of their customers. All it requires is a leap of faith and a simple rule change: offer customers specific times. This would put the right kind of pressure on these organizations to change their service at the points that matters most to customers: fixing a problem or delivering a good. It would force them to be up front about communication, to anticipate problems and head them off before they leave a customer waiting and guessing. It would honor their customers by sucking up the burden of all that time uncertainty rather than passing it along to them. Offering specific times would be a simple rule change that would imply a fundamental shift. It would put the quality of people's experience at the center by taking on greater responsibility and adopting strong empathy for customers. The future is there for the taking by companies that can do this. Honor your customers' time and it will be awesome.