Making Good Public Services through Psychology

Or the importance of reducing uncertainty

It's reasonable to say no one likes public services.

Whether it's the IRS or Social Security, going there is never an enjoyable experience. Often, you need to deal with annoying issues - and often, you need to wait a loooooong time.

You sit there and await your turn. And you wait. And you wait. You get up to stretch your legs. But time seems to be moving backwards like in Tenet (did anyone actually get what that movie was about?)

But there's a detail that could make all the difference:

Displaying wait times.

Yes, really. Put a big sign there and show how long the wait will be. Even if it's two hours.

The reason why this would work is that it reduces uncertainty. Waiting in queue is annoying - but not knowing if it'll take 15 minutes or 1 hour to talk with someone is the worst part.

If you don't believe me, think about this: how would you feel if you ordered something online and they told you "Ah, it should arrive in 3 days. Or 30. We don’t know."?

Yeah - not the best experience.

Letting people know how long the wait will be lets them plan their time. They can go grab coffee, do some phone calls, whatever. Reduce their uncertainty, and even the service is not the best, you'll surely improve their perception.

💡 Exercise for you: what parts of your customer journey leave customers wondering "What's next"? How can you clarify it?