What’s worse then not knowing something went wrong?  Not knowing what went wrong! When are businesses going to get it in their heads that people like things to be predictable.  Life is already incredibly uncertain, they don’t want your product or service to make it worse!

Case in point: the TTC.  I used to hate taking the TTC.  I would wait, and wait, and wait, and then wait some more, not having any idea how long it would take for the next streetcar, bus or subway to arrive.  Is this one of those delays that’s going to take half an hour, or is it coming in the next minute?  Am I going to be 10 minutes early or 10 minutes late?  This used to drive me nuts!  One reason I avoided most TTC surface vehicles like the plague, was that they were just too unpredictable to get to where I wanted to go in time.  After many, many years, they’ve finally figured out that they can improve their service by just providing more information.

Here’s an example of something that was seemingly insignificant relating to the construction at Spadina station.  If you’ve been there recently, there are holes in the wall, parts of the ceiling uncovered and just an unpleasant site in general.  What would be ideal is to fix all those problems right away and make the station all shiny and new.  Of course the probability of that happening is extremely unlikely (read: nil), so what else could they do?  (Hint: give more information)  And surprisingly, that’s what happened!  They simply put up a sign explaining that they are ensuring structural integrity of the building (or something along those lines) and they expect it to be fixed by a certain date (whether they can deliver is another story).  These simple little signs, which is on every one of those little “improvement” sites, really allowed me to cut them some slack because the integrity and safety of the building is much more important than an unsightly view.

Another example is the arrival times of the subways and streetcars.  Now when I take one, I can look at the number and even if it’s longer than I wanted to wait, I can plan.  Just the other day, I came out of my Toastmaster’s meeting with that distinct feeling of needing to relieve myself.  Not being that urgent and not having any washrooms close by, I decided that I could wait until I got home.  After arriving at the streetcar stop, I sent a text to the TTC’s number to figure out how long I would be waiting.  It quickly replied that it would take 10 minutes.  At this point, my bladder was screaming that I wouldn’t make it home.  But knowing it was 10 minutes, I quickly hopped across the street, used the washroom, and was back in time to catch the streetcar.  The alternative was waiting at the stop for what would have seemed like an eternity with the possibility of peeing myself.  Thank goodness for arrival times!

Although I’m still resentful that the TTC didn’t have these services earlier, it’s better late than never.  Some businesses (and people) still can’t get it into their thick skulls that we just want to have some certainty in their lives.  Even if the outcome isn’t what we were hoping for, we can take time to process it and move on.  Don’t underestimate the power of giving people certainty because kingdoms, businesses and people have risen and fallen on this one point.  (Corollary: If you can thrive in a environment of uncertainty, then you’re a valuable asset wherever you go.)  And if you can figure out how to do this, then you’ll be rewarded with a lot more than just a badly needed washroom break.