Creating Fewer Decisions

October 25, 2015
Mary Jane Copps

Decision fatigue is one of the biggest challenges impacting communication today, so it’s worth revisiting this information I first published in 2015.

It is estimated that adults make 35,000 decisions each day – which does sound ridiculous, but when we consider that each email we receive involves a decision as well as the clothes we wear, the food we eat, when we book appointments, and so on, it starts to make sense. And it follows that as each day progresses, making decisions – let alone making the right decisions – becomes more difficult.

How does this impact our ability to serve our customers and clients? What can we do to ease this fatigue?

Understanding and embracing this is key to our success in creating effective communication with our customers and prospects, and delivering great service.

The word ‘service‘ has Old French and Latin origins, and in the 1200’s began to refer to “assistance, help, a helpful act”. Today, when we reduce the decisions we request of our customers, we are being more helpful – we are offering excellent service.

Here’s a example of what I mean:

While in Saint John, New Brunswick, a few years ago, I stayed at the Delta Brunswick. It was a delightful experience; all of the staff were incredibly helpful and cheerful, making it a “go to” hotel for me.

I checked in after delivering a full day of training, so I was definitely in that “tired and hungry” space. There was a lineup at the front desk and the buzz of impatience in the air. The staff handled it well and, when my turn arrived, I experienced that wave of relief which comes when unpacking and good food are close at hand. Then came the question, common to most hotels: “Are you collecting reward points?”

If I was the ultra-organized person I’d like to be, I’d probably know how to answer this question but, given that sometimes I book my hotel, other times my clients do the booking, and sometimes I sign up for points, other times my credit card handles it… I really didn’t know what to say.

So I stood at the desk trying to decide if I should dig through my wallet and look for the appropriate loyalty card, or come back and submit the details later, or submit the details online, or … .  In the end I responded with a weary, “I have no idea.”

What if it was easier for hotel staff to answer this question for their customer? One’s status for rewards could be right on the screen, attached to the name and email address. It definitely shouldn’t be part of check in, the moment when the majority of travellers are tired, hungry and decision frazzled.

We can all find ways of decreasing our customers’ need to make decisions and, as a consequence, create an opportunity to deliver superior service. Many years ago I realized the majority of people who approached me for training needed a written proposal. Today I offer that proposal before it’s requested.  Those who don’t require it respond with “A few points in an email is fine” or “No, I have what I need.” And those who do need a proposal … they don’t have to decide when and how to ask for one.

In the coming weeks, pay attention to the questions you ask the majority of your customers. Are all of them necessary? Or can you gather and maintain that information in another way? And what about requests you receive from customers? Is there a way you can deliver that information before being asked?


Where’s The Phone Lady? 

Monday Oct 30 – Phone Skills for the 21st Century, Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association, Atlantic Chapter, Halifax

Tuesday Oct 31 – Phone Follow Up for Inbound Marketers, Spring Loaded Technology, Halifax

Thursday Nov 2 – Customer Service Skills for Today’s Business, NSCC Ivany Campus, Dartmouth

Thursday Nov 2 – Telephone Excellence, Knowledge First Financial, TeleTraining Session, British Columbia

Monday Nov 6 – Telephone Excellence, Knowledge First Financial, TeleTraining Session, British Columbia

Tuesday Nov 7 – Telephone Excellence, Canadian Credit Union Association, National Virtual Conference

Wednesday Nov 8 – Telephone Excellence, Killam Properties Inc, Halifax

Thursday Nov 9 – Job Search Phone Skills, Older Wiser Labourforce (OWL), Halifax

Monday Nov 13 – Phone Skills to Reach & Meet More Clients, TD Wealth, Toronto

Tuesday Nov 14 – Create Consistent Revenue, CEED, Halifax

Thursday Nov 16 – Phone Skills That Build Your Business, in partnership with Eleanor Beaton, Halifax

Tuesday Nov 21 – Telephone Excellence, RBC, Tele-training



  1. Laura Churchill Duke says:

    Great advice.
    I often will go on decision making strikes at home. Having to make decisions for everyone in the family on a daily basis is exhausting.
    Make things easy for our clients with as few steps as possible. Thanks for sharing.

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Thanks, Laura, for your comment. I certainly attempt to go on decision-making strikes, but I’m not very effective. It is a great idea and creates a mini vacation.

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