Dear CMO:

I’ve got a new post up over at The Daily Fix on Creating Trance States – take a look if you haven’t seen it. The back story is that while installing a new printer over the weekend, I saw a vivid example of how one company deals with the timeless problem of what to do with your customers when you make them wait. In HP’s case, they deliver a branded slide show reinforcing the benefits of the product line (an up-sell), the technical characteristics of the printer purchased (education), providing a web-based ink purchasing site link (e-commerce) and other messages.

Beyond the needed time sink of installing software to run your printer, where else does this work? Look at any customer facing business, particularly in that “moment of power” when you – the service provider – has to *do* something. The customer is waiting. Worse, the customers are standing in a self-organized semi-circle, arms crossed, weight on one leg. And they’re scowling. This isn’t a good moment.

The answer isn’t to move faster – it’s to give them something else to fixate on. Lewis Green commented at The Fix post saying, “just give me products that are bug free” – words to live by, we can all agree – but we often need that time to do what we promised to deliver, be it a custom experience, a hand-crafted solution, or whatever. How do you do this? The answers are as many as the business bottlenecks we encounter, but here are a few conversation starters:

Prep as theater: regardless of whether you’re installing software drivers, having your new iPhone configured or waiting for coffee, the service provider is preparing your new thing just for you. There’s no reason this can’t be “theater,” with you watching their every move. There’s nothing that says they can’t tell you what they’re doing, either. Engagment and involvement mean there are no moments when you, the customer, are wondering, “what on earth is taking so long?”

Reinforcement: when I’ve already made up my mind and handed over my money, I’m 100% committed. I can’t turn back. This makes me a raving (and utterly ignorant) fan of whatever I just bought. Simply the fact that I’ve publicly stated my brand preference more than doubles my confidence in my decision. So now is the time to support this confidence by reinforcing your customer’s great decision making prowess. Give them more cocktail party ammo that they can re-tell to their friends – because they will.

Relevant branding: Beyond reinforcement, we can push further into a larger brand story and tell our desired storylines to a rapt audience that is not only open to hearing it – they just committed to your brand, they feel a psychological need to defend their decision, and frankly they’ve got the time because they’re waiting for you – but willing to re-tell it. This is an un-tapped area, in many customer engagements.

Education and the beginnings of expertise: Creating fans and evangelists is one thing, but as we’ve said before, nothing beats creating experts. Tell them three things they don’t know about the new product they just bought, be it features that usually take months to master to the fair trade practices that bring your acai berries into the country. Whatever is expert and relevant, tell it here.

Does your brand experience have a stalling point? A time when you simply can’t do something as fast as your customers want? Do something for those who would otherwise criticize you for making them wait. How would you create a trance state for your brand?