Long waiting lines can make customers feel you don’t care about them. And the resulting dissatisfaction of this feeling can cost you return customers, word-of-mouth referrals, and market share. The stakes are high. According to the latest research from NewVoiceMedia’s 2018 “Serial Switchers” report, U.S. businesses lose an estimated $75 billion in sales annually due to poor customer service. This is up from $62 billion in the company’s 2016 report.
How much is caused by the waiting line experience?
How customers feel about the quality of your service is one of the best predictors of market share. You may not need to look past your waiting lines to discover a place where the customer service experience can be salvaged or even strengthened.
Below are four unbelievably simple ways to improve the waiting line experience to show customers you value them and their time.
What is taking so long? How long do you think we’re going to have to wait? Why aren’t they opening another line?
When customers are left to create their own conclusions about your waiting lines, the results are probably not going to be in your favor. That line probably looks longer than it actually is. The reason for the long line is probably not what they are thinking. A surprising thing happens when you (a) provide an accurate wait time estimation and (b) explain why the wait times are what they are. Suddenly, when customers step into your line, they stop with their over-inflated version of the truth. They stop obsessing about the wait. They stop making up unreasonable stories about why the wait is so long. They feel like you care because you’ve managed their expectations and helped them understand the reason for the wait.
An interesting phenomenon occurs every day in grocery stores. When people start loading their groceries onto the conveyor belt, their dreaded wait in line is over. At least, it feels that way. This lesson about getting the process started can be applied to other businesses as well. Consider In-N-Out Burger, where there is almost always a long line at the drive-through. Just as you’re questioning your sanity, an order-taker arrives at your car window to get your order started. A bank places stanchion-top tables and pens in the queue to get its customers started on paperwork before reaching the front of the line. A retail store sends an associate into the line to collect items and begin removing hangers and security tags. Wait: over.
How can you get your customers started sooner?
Shorter wait times are proven to improve the customer service experience. People just don’t want to waste their time waiting in line. Keeping wait times in control requires that you take a proactive approach. Thanks to today’s footfall analytics and people counting technology, this is a pretty simple thing to do. Easy-to-install sensors can count people arriving, waiting, and departing your business. Current and historical wait times can be analyzed for better staffing decisions. And real-time alerts can allow you to head off problems before they escalate.
In one study, a staggering 87% of customers say they would adopt queuing technology if it reduced the amount of time they spent waiting in line. More than that, 67% shared they would be willing to download an app or use a virtual queue to reserve their place in line. Does your queue lend itself to a virtual one? Can you let customers pre-schedule their place in line or check into your queue upon arrival so they can spend their “free” time doing something other than standing around? DMVs and emergency rooms are natural applications for such an approach. But how about a barber shop, jewelry store, or in-store pick-up? When customers can free themselves from standing in line, their satisfaction can soar.
An exceptional, differentiated customer experience leads to higher customer retention, customers who will exert extra effort to do business with you, customers who will happily tell the world how great you are, and customers who love doing business with you. And that’s exactly what every company dreams of.