At 35,000 feet, it’s unnerving when your 737 spins sideways like a fighter jet dodging a missile. On a routine flight, you don’t want to feel your commercial airliner shudder, violently, as if the pilot drove you through a field of boulders in a convertible.
But that’s what happened to me on a recent flight, halfway between Washington Dulles and San Diego.
In less than 2 seconds, we went from everything-is-normal to oh-shit-we’re-tipped-sideways, then shaken like hell, then back to normal. I gripped my armrests and caught the eye of one flight attendant who turned pasty white before remembering to regain her composure. She smiled as if to say, “oh that’s just normal.” But it wasn’t normal, and her expression looked forced, emphasizing that fact.
All 200 passengers fell silent as we watched the flight crew walk briskly to the nearest phone. They were getting the report from the captain, and I desperately wanted to hear their conversation.
Had our engine gone out? Did the wing snap? Did we narrowly miss another airplane or a flock of high altitude super-birds?
Whatever it was, I wanted to know. My fellow passengers HAD to know. And our collective anxiety increased every minute the flight attendants chatted without us.
Finally, the captain came over the loudspeaker:
”Yeahhhh, ladies and gentlemen, uhhhh, this is the captain speaking. Ehhhh, it appears we crossed the, ahhhh, jet stream of another flight which, ahhhh, temporarily caused some turbulence. Uhhhh, I’ll go ahead and turn the seatbelt sign on for a few minutes, but, ehhhh, it should be smooth flying from here on out.”
My heart was still pounding, but I instantly relaxed. Every wild nightmare of colliding with another plane, exploding into a million pieces, and crashing into an empty Chuck E. Cheese parking lot with one dangling wing disappeared. Somehow, just hearing the captains brief explanation took my mind from life-or-death back to my Hemingway book (which I had been faithfully reading before this incident).
I realized, in those moments of relief, that people need “closed loops”.
People Need Closed Loops
Me, you, every passenger on that flight. We need to feel a sense of relief and relaxation that comes with understanding what’s going on, completely. We need explanations so we’re not left to our imaginations, wondering what went wrong.
Your customers, being people, need this too. That crazy airplane turbulence, unlike anything any of us had ever experienced, opened a loop for everyone on that plane. The captain closed that loop with a short explanation.
When your customers make a purchase, they open a loop. To close it, they need to hear when their purchase is packed, when it ships, when it will arrive, and where it is along the way. When they receive their order, they need to be asked if it is in good working condition, or if they have any questions or concerns.
If your customer has a problem, it opens a loop. To close it, your customer needs to know who to call, or, if they need to return something, what to expect.
Your Customers Need Closed Loops Too
We live in a time where it is dangerous leaving customers waiting in an open loop. As the minute's tick by, their anxiety grows and their minds wander. They’ll begin daydreaming of reasons why their package is late, why that email didn’t show up, or why you didn’t call. As the days pass by, they’ll turn to their friends on social media to complain. They’ll tell their story, without your input, from the perspective of an anxious, underserved customer who was duped into buying from yet another money-hungry company.
And it will never be their fault.
So take care to watch for open loops, and take care to close them. Every moment your customers don’t know what’s going on is a moment you are losing their trust, their interest, and their loyalty. Every moment they are informed you are putting them at ease, building their trust with you, and encouraging them to do business with you again.
About the Author
CO-FOUNDER | BUSINESS STRATEGIST AND TRAVELER EXTRAORDINAIRE
Mike Mehlberg spends his days flying between cities. When he’s not tipped sideways or shaken from turbulence, he is writing about ways business owners and entrepreneurs can be more productive, get organized, strategize, and grow.