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being vague builds anticipation – or annoyance?

End of the line for metcard

A clear sign for the end of the metcard

I’ve travelled on some trains lately which is not something I do very often these days (working from home doesn’t require a lot of train trips!) and read some messages about the new ticketing system.

Now, I called it a new system because it is replacing our old system but it has been in use since the end of 2009! Basically, the myki card is an electronic contact system for public transport throughout Victoria instead of our old metcard system.

Myki has been phased in and many people were still using the metcards earlier this year.

Notices in trains

At each end of train carriages in Melbourne, a ticker system gives messages such as the name of stations as the train approaches.

Recently, that is in October and November 2012, I’ve seen the following message:

myki is replacing metcard in 2012

What do you think of this message?

Build anticipation

Sometimes, not giving the full story is a great way to keep people interested and motivate them to find out more.

Like at the end of season a TV show will have Mary heading into danger while John is arrested on his way to rescue her. If you care about John and Mary, you are drawn to see the next season.

So being vague can have advantages.

I’m not so sure that a vague ‘2012’ is good enough for something like ending a ticket system. Especially as I remember 1 July being advertised as the date metcards stopped…

Commitment or safety?

If I tell you that the blog posts you asked me to write will be ready at 1pm on Monday, you have a clear expectation. And I have made a commitment so will provide the blog posts on time.

If I had told you they’d be ready on Monday afternoon, I have  given myself a little more time to get them finished but you still have a commitment to rely on.

Would you be very impressed if I said ‘yes, I’ll write you some blog posts this month and let you know when they’re ready’?

There are times when you can’t be sure of a delivery date so you use less concrete references to save problems and complaints – it gives the business a safety net really.

Maybe I’m just cynical but I think too much safety net behaviour reduces your credibility and people don’t trust you. We have respect for someone brave enough to stand up and say “I will do this by this time” –  even if they later adjust the timeframe a little.

So I am not impressed by a message that myki is replacing metcards in 2012.

2012 covers 12 months (10 of which have gone!) and 365 days.

2012 doesn’t give me clarity of when I must change systems. It feels like they have no faith in meeting deadlines so have extended it as much as possible to protect themselves rather than push to meet it.

I think even ‘myki is gradually replacing metcard during 2012’ would have bene better if various dates were involved for phasing in myki. Or update the message during the year to be more specific, such as ‘metcard not for sale from July’ and ‘metcard readers now deactivated’.

 Make your commitment

What do you think of this public message?

Does something so vague give you enough faith to trust the system? Maybe it seems reasonable to you?

When you are choosing suppliers, how committed do you expect them to be?

4 Responses to being vague builds anticipation – or annoyance?

  • PubD says:

    You’re right. That’s far too vague. My first impression would be that the old system would be gone January 2012, which would make me panic if I’d not yet switched, or ignore the message if I knew they still worked fine.

    I don’t mind vague dates for books, maybe video games and other things further into the future…. if I finish a new release and there’s a note that the next book is due in 2014, I’m not going to quibble about what month. It’s just nice to know that one is coming.

    • tashword says:

      Yes, context is everything really, isn’t it? As much as I may want the next book in a series to be out sooner rather than later :), I agree that knowing the month long in advance isn’t necessary.

  • darkmeiji says:

    Vagueness may work sometimes, but not in all instances. At first, you may be able to increase anticipation, but, due to the long period of time one has to wait – a whole year in this case, the anticipation will wane easily and then those waiting will be disappointed. Just like you wrote, some instances require commitment and, failure to identify a specific time creates an impression of lack of commitment and also of reliability.

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