The Common Uncommonly

All About Loyalty


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Please make it stop.

I’m writing this blog post (ding) at the beginning of a 9-hour flight (ding) from Manchester to Atlanta.  It seems like (ding) a good time to address the topic of (ding) annoyance.  Why?  Because the guy across the aisle has (ding) a broken flight attendant call button that has (ding) been dinging for the past hour, nonstop, every 4-6 seconds.  Ding.

So… annoyance.

A couple of researchers recently published a book called ANNOYING: The Science of What Bugs Us.  It’s another example of social scientists overthinking things, but I think there’s merit in understanding how to drive people crazy.

Maybe you’re a sadistic person who enjoys annoying others.  In that case, you may want to check out the Annoy-a-tron at ThinkGeek.  Ingenius.

But most of us can use this information for good instead of evil.  How?  If you know how to drive people crazy, you can figure out how NOT to drive them crazy.  Which comes in handy with important people.  You know, like your customers.

Back to the book.  The researchers identified a few key elements of annoyance.  One of the biggest is unpredictability.  In other words, you’re less likely to let an irritating situation get under your skin if you know when it will end.

Like when you’re standing in line.

Or waiting on hold.

Or expecting an important email.

Or listening to a broken flight attendant call button.  Ding.

Good companies figure out how to annoy their customers as little as possible.  Sometimes that’s as easy as a hold message saying “Your wait time is approximately 5 minutes,” or a progress bar on the bottom of an online survey, or a detailed project schedule.  You get the idea. 

And sometimes it means you inconvenience yourself in the process.  Like a Delta cabin crew that shuts off the plane’s cabin intercom system because it’s the only way to stop the dinging… even though that makes the remaining 7 hours of flight time more difficult for them.  Thanks, Delta.

So take a good look at how you treat your customers.  Put yourself in their shoes – would you be annoyed by the way you do things? 

Or are you deaf to the dinging?

Written by Tom Logue

July 19th, 2011 at 7:35 am

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  1. [...] I like flying.  I like the bustle of airports, the rhythm of takeoffs and landings viewed from the terminal, the beautiful shapes and designs of planes old and new.  I can’t suppress my smile during the up-up-and-away sensation of liftoff, and the dinging and humming and whirring of those marvelous machines is music to my ears (usually).  [...]

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