We’ve all experienced the frustration of walking into a store and seeing, first thing, a long line of customers. If your initial reaction is to tuck tail and run, you’re not alone. Now imagine your customers’ reactions. The length of time customers are willing to wait in line is perhaps shorter than you might expect – just eight minutes max, according to some research.
There is significant value in delivering an overall positive customer experience. A positive experience correlates to repeat visits. Similarly, customers remember negative service experiences and will actively avoid repeat visits to businesses they associate with poor customer service, such as a painfully long wait in line.
In a nutshell, long lines can give the impression of a slow or otherwise unpleasant customer experience that customers might prefer to avoid. (Unless, of course, you’re talking about rolled ice cream.)
Here are four ways your lines might be scaring away potential customers.
Think about the waiting experience at the DMV. You receive a ticket, take a seat, and wait until your number is called. Sometimes, you repeat this process two or three times in a single visit. If left without a wait time estimate, this wait could feel like forever, but it doesn’t have to. Instead, you can give customers an estimated wait time, which is shown to significantly reduce the perceived wait time and increase customer satisfaction.
Another way to make the line go by quicker is by keeping customers occupied while they wait. With virtual queuing, you can give customers the freedom to wait without standing in line, so they can continue to peruse your store or even wait elsewhere until it is their turn in line. Another simple yet powerful solution involves adding in-queue merchandising to occupy customers while also contributing to your bottom line.
Sometimes, the wait is just plain long. Powered with the knowledge that customers are willing to wait less than ten minutes before abandoning a line, it is worthwhile to find ways to speed up your queue. One way to increase the productivity of your line is with call-forward queuing. Station lights and digital signage in the queuing area can direct customers to the next available service point, and eliminate unnecessary downtime as a result. Another surprising way to cut wait times is to utilize a single line, multi-server queue. This queue formation is proven to result in less variation in the amount of time customers are kept waiting and that means shorter average wait times all around.
As Warren Buffet puts it, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
Buffet is onto something. After a negative customer service experience with a given company, 39% of customers report that they actively avoid that company for two or more years. Recognizing the power of first impressions, how will you do things differently? Improving the waiting experience can be one way to send customers the message that you respect their time and are eager to address issues before their wait times become unreasonable.
Word of mouth is influential in shaping perceptions. Customers tell their friends about their experience with various brands, resulting in a ripple effect that can scare away potential customers before they’ve even given you a chance. This can work to your advantage when people advocate your store or service, but can be an insurmountable disadvantage if the word gets out that you offer a negative customer experience.
Companies from retail to restaurants consistently find that the waiting experience becomes a defining point of the overall customer experience and is often found to cause customers to turn away or leave a negative online review.
When it comes to spreading the word, bad experiences are more sticky than good ones: 95% of customers share poor service experiences, compared to 87% who share good experiences. More than that, 54% of customers share negative experiences with more than five people. Word of mouth isn’t the only platform for sharing experiences. Social media is another tool for this, with 45% of customers sharing negative customer experiences on social media.
Well-planned and proactive queue management can give companies an edge in providing a positive experience. One way to achieve this is with footfall analytics, which can be used to predict staffing needs and generate real-time alerts when wait times are at risk of surpassing preset thresholds. With this, you can address potential issues before they even arise.
While in most cases you can’t remove the wait altogether, strategic queue management can be used as a tool to improve the waiting experience. Whether your objective is to drive down wait times, occupy customers while they wait, or deliver a five star service that leaves customers raving every time, well-planned queue management is critical to getting there. Explore industry-leading queue management solutions.