Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The "Dreaded Wait": Incentives and Constraints in Services Formation

Both for profit and not for profit endeavor face similar incentives and constraints, when it comes to providing time based services. How so? Organizational efficiency is normally sought, by finding ways to reduce the time required to fulfill given services functions. Unfortunately, the results are often less than optimal, whenever time value provides the most important function of the product in question. True, long waits have mostly been "conquered" in the tradable goods free market sectors. Even so, the process has hardly begun for time based product, due to the lack of a marketplace for time value.

In particular: privatizing any product which requires some degree of knowledge based interaction in specific circumstance, hardly guarantees a better or more "efficient" good. Pressing a number by phone for a service, or taking a number in an overcrowded room, does not always lead to the product which anyone desires from personal interaction. Waits that are associated with government services, stem from the same budget constraints for time value which businesses face.

Governments and businesses alike seek to get the job done, by providing the smallest amount of compensated services time possible. One of the most aggravating waits on the planet is for services by phone, regardless of profit or non profit origination. When services are relatively centralized, monopolized and externally defined, little incentive exists to reduce wait times at any step of the process.

By contrast, the wait time in restaurant lines almost seems a breeze. Hardly anyone gets upset at the prospect of a thirty minute wait during peak hours. And when customers need to return to work after lunch, local food providers compete to reduce the midday wait, for a product often more practical than experiential. Plus, consumers tend to be more comfortable with wait times when food preparation seeks experiential product status - particularly for evening and weekend meals. The more that wait time is associated with freely chosen scarce goods, the less "onerous" it tends to be. When it comes to vacations, "waiting" may even take on positive associations.

Whereas the artificial scarcity of knowledge use is a far cry, from a freely chosen scarce good. And yet long waits and lines are generally a given, when rival time value means less time based product in aggregate. In these instances, asymmetrically compensated rival time means less than optimal product availability, in order to maintain marketplace advantage. While artificial scarcity is often not problematic for tradable goods, governments experience long term problems when artificial scarcity is built into basic service formations. The greatest political struggles of our time, stem in part from time compensation asymmetries. However, these knowledge use imbalances are entrenched at levels which neither politicians or voters have adequate means to address.

Hence the overwhelming public reaction, to perceived shortages in healthcare availability. Public dialogue has morphed into questioning the worthiness of those who gain healthcare access, on multiple fronts. While this approach may appear easier than addressing services provision directly, it still solves very little. Plus, it leads to societal judgments which should not have been necessary in the first place. A marketplace for time value would help to change this unfortunate circumstance eventually, in terms of organizational capacity at local levels. A decentralized marketplace for time value, could approach time constraints at personal levels, in order to determine the marketplace which individuals actually seek.

Granted, no one knows for certain how they would choose to organize time value, until individuals "give one another permission" to find out. However, one thing is for certain: no one would willingly force everyone to stand in line or wait for hours at a time, to carry out basic services functions. The main reason so many experience the "dreaded wait", is that time value has been excluded from production for obvious economic reasons. By making room for time value as a fully functioning marketplace, no one would need to endure the aggravation of lines, except for the moments when lines make sense for all concerned.

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