Frustration Insights: Editor’s Column

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Short days, Covid-19 variants, supply chain issues and more test our patience

Consumer frustration insights. Editorial director Beth English.
Beth English, Editorial director

The last weeks of winter feel eternal. I’m lucky enough to live in a moderate climate, but I still impatiently await the days when warm weather is the norm rather than the exception. This winter felt particularly difficult, with the omicron variant infecting so many people in January and the ongoing supply chain woes. 

With retailers short-staffed and goods in short supply, it’s no surprise many people have been short-tempered. The frustration is just under the surface, threatening to bubble over at the first opportunity. 

When putting together a magazine, you don’t always notice the ways the articles interact with each other until you read through the whole thing. This time, I was surprised to notice a low-key theme of consumer frustration running through this issue. 

The most direct example comes from Better Sleep Council research on consumer reactions to supply chain delays when buying a mattress, as well as other large purchases such as furniture, electronics, appliances and power tools. The good news is 34% reported a willingness to wait two weeks to a month to get their mattress. Another 26% were willing to wait more than a month. No one likes to wait but having clear communication about any potential delays will build trust.

Our article on customer service shows that using concrete language, rather than abstract language, can go a long way toward helping shoppers feel they are being heard. Instead of saying, “Let’s try out some of these mattresses,” say “Let’s put you on this medium-firm mattress and see how that feels on your back.” Show that you’ve heard their preferences and pain points. 

Even when you’re doing your best, you might be the person who takes the brunt of someone’s disappointment and frustration. It happens in families and at work. I think the brief “Keeping Calm and Carrying On” provides some helpful tips to mentally shake off an unpleasant conversation. 

But before you think everything is all prickly customers and frustrated colleagues, this issue also has its share of positive, useful articles. Julie A. Palm brings us ways to engage every sense in a brick-and-mortar store. The suggestions are solid — I love stores that smell good and have enjoyable music playing in the background. The experience feels like a treat. Isn’t that what you want your customers to feel?

Dave Perry’s column about memorable showroom displays certainly provides fodder for how to approach the visual realm. These examples may be just the catalyst you need to spark new ideas for your floor. 

I hope that the coming months bring new energy and a relief from our collective frustrations. Here’s to brighter days ahead. 

Read more editor’s columns; Lessons from Las Vegas.