Ponder this: in our lifetime, we spend an estimated four years waiting in line. Poor queue management can frustrate or even drive away customers: A recent retail study shows that almost 50% of surveyed customers would avoid a store or brand if they knew their wait time would exceed five minutes.
Certainly, reducing wait times is one way to reduce the annoyance of waiting. But that’s only part of the story. A recent study by Cable & Wireless and QM Group found that seemingly innocent things can rub a waiting customer the wrong way. Slow or chatting cashiers irritated nearly 70 percent of customers while 49 percent were annoyed at seeing closed checkout lines when a store is busy.
Turns out, there are many other ways to make waiting in line less maddening for your customers. With ample research on the topic, we’ve distilled it down into five key ways to create a more positive waiting experience:
A wait time feels much longer when customers have nothing else to do. Instead, distract from the wait with television screens or music. Research shows the best option is familiar music that keeps customers feeling upbeat and happy.
It is shown that when customers are told how long they’ll be expected to wait, the wait feel shorter and the overall waiting experience is more positive. Provide your customers with a wait time estimate via a digital screen or mobile device. Estimates can be delivered automatically using a basic footfall analytics system that takes into account historical wait times and the current volume of customers. This allows customers to feel in control and sets expectations.
Sometimes, an unusually long wait is unavoidable. Imagine a scenario at an airport, where a delayed flight pushes back the departure times of the subsequent planes flying out of that terminal. This can be incredibly frustrating for customers, especially if they’re kept in the dark as to what is happening. Instead, apologize, offer up an explanation as to what is happening, and communicate how you are working to resolve the situation.
When you’re standing in line for what feels like forever, the last thing you want to see is someone who gets to the front much quicker. The impression of an “unfair” queue can come from a multi-line queue where someone who arrived later gets served sooner. A simple solution here to automatically enforce a first-come, first-served order is to employ a single line queue. No guesswork. No disappointment.
Remember too that a queue can appear unfair if special treatment is given to customers who pay extra, have VIP status, or otherwise have reason to bypass the standard waiting line. If your business has priority queuing, it is important to be transparent about it (see point #3).
In some situations, it makes sense to get rid of the physical waiting line all together. Rather than requiring customers to stand in a physical line, consider if a virtual queuing system could work within your business. With virtual queuing, customers can indicate that they are ready for service or checkout using an in-store kiosk or a mobile app. The system automatically instills fairness, provides estimated wait times, and empowers customers to keep themselves occupied by continuing to shop, run other errands, or just relax while they wait. Now, that can be a real crowd pleaser.
What are your customers saying about your queuing experience? Remove the risk of losing customers or reducing overall satisfaction by looking into solutions that create a more enjoyable queuing experience for your customers.