ClickBait; CrackBerry; HighPhone: Don’t forget to feed the beast.

ClickBait; CrackBerry; HighPhone: Don’t forget to feed the beast.


In an interview on, the behavioural economist Rory Sutherland tells an anecdote that touches at the very heart of why we think people are looking for products like ZenExchange.

In all the years London Underground has been running, the “single best investment they did in terms of improving customer satisfaction per pound spent wasn’t faster, more frequent or later running trains, it was putting dot-matrix boards on the platform telling passengers how long they’ll have to wait until the next train.”

And the reason for this is very simple and very human; it’s because the dot-matrix boards help you avoid the same anxious feeling you get waiting for a booked taxi, a date to text you back or a boss to respond to your email: the human brain hates the uncertainty of not knowing.

Since dot-matrix boards made Tube travellers lives better in the 90’s, technology has gone on to fundamentally change our expectations of how frequently we want to be updated on the things and people we’re connected to.  This was most painfully evidenced by the report that found that on average we now check our phones every 6 minutes, or 150 times a day.  Although a lot of the updates are CC spam or non-urgent cat-related comments, the fact remains that we’re conditioning our brains to constantly seek comfort in updates.  (Do you remember how odd early Blackberry users appeared?  Where I worked, they were called CrackBerry addicts. Well, that’s now all of us.)

And it’s not just our phones, SatNav has people using them along routes they drive everyday because, without the constant reassurance the route in correct, the driver is irritated by a niggling uncertainty.

So if we accept that the human brain hated a lack of Tube updates 20 years ago. And that, since then, email, mobile and social media has done everything it can to condition our brains to expect frequent updates from everything, it’s not a stretch to extrapolate that anybody operating a business that doesn’t allow for easy access updates is going to run the risk of creating a very anxious, and therefore irritable, client indeed.

Segueing over to the property industry, the most common complaint from clients is poor communication – in other words an absence of updates.  The oft-heard response from the industry is, that the process of buying and selling a home takes as long as it takes; it’s a legal process and the client was given all the information in the beginning. So why then, must the industry spend hundreds of hours of negotiator, solicitor and paralegal time feeding clients pointless updates or discussing a matter that’s already been explained?

The answer, as you will have guessed, is that reason and rationality have little to do with it.  Our clients, and us, have been psychological conditioned to expect a different kind of engagement that must be catered to in order to maintain a good client relationship.

In accepting the impact mobile and social media is having on our brains, all companies need to do is satisfy a psychological itch whenever a customer open their phone and that will leave solicitors and agents to focus on the more complex aspects of getting the sale completed.

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