• Current Reading:

    Prous Was a Nuerscoentists

    The Big Switch

    The Visual Display of Quantitative Information


    This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from cherbert. Make your own badge here.

Blog Basics

« Home Runs vs. Singles: Long Tail in the VC World? | Main | Free the Music: Are Record Labels Finally Getting It? »

January 21, 2007

The Colonoscopy Effect

If you give a crap happiness then you’ll love this section from a recent Economist article on economics discovering its feelings (emphasis added):

Mr. Kahneman’s most notorious experiment took place in a Toronto hospital over a decade ago. He and a colleague asked patients undergoing a colonoscopy (in which a probe is passed up the rectum) [this is actually in the article, no kidding] to report their level of discomfort minute by minute. Later, they were asked how they felt about the procedure in retrospect. Their answers were surprising. The test left a worse impression on patient A, for whom it lasted less than ten minutes, than on patient B, who suffered for 24 minutes. Patients’ recollections were heavily coloured by the procedure’s worst moment and its last moment. The duration of pain did not seem to make much difference. Patients were happier about a colonoscopy that lasted longer but ended better.

Why did I highlight this? Well, for several reasons. First, it’s funny. No, having a colonoscopy is not fun but talking about in this context is funny.

Second and more important, we’re researching the topic of issue resolution at work and this example underscores one of our key hypotheses: being transparent during the issue resolution process may be as important as or more important than the actual resolution delivered to customers.

Not to say that interacting with a contact (call) center is as painful as a colonoscopy but the idea that longer resolution timeframes, even if more painful, can be perceived as better than shorter resolution timeframes when the former ends on a happy note is insightful precisely because it seems counter-intuitive.

Third, it’s interesting to think about how the Colonoscopy Effect applies to customer service in general. As we see more shopping and commerce move online, where there is less human interaction, we would expect more automated customer service and issue resolution processes. People fear what they don’t know and when it comes to products or services they’ve purchased online, they want to know exactly where the order is and why it hasn’t arrived yet.

I'm paraphrasing from a cited statistic and can't remember it exactly so this may be a little off:  according to FedEx or UPS, on average, customers check the tracking progress of a package six or seven times a day.

So for the internet companies, old (e.g. Amazon) and new alike (the Web2.0 startups), keep in mind how transparent your customer service and issue resolution processes are to the customers. People will evidently accept long delays (within reason), even painful ones, if you ultimately deliver on your promise and delight the customer by the end of the process.

Currently Playing: Magic Numbers – Crazy in Love (cover)


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Colonoscopy Effect:


blog comments powered by Disqus