Who likes queuing? For customers, waiting is a waste of time, and for companies, it’s a risk of losing customers, especially in the retail sector. Who hasn’t heard or said: “what a queue, I will come back later or buy it online.”
Queuing, the unacceptable reality
One third of people think that, nowadays, having to wait in queues is unacceptable. Many industries are impacted by this expectation of instant-service.
For example, in the banking sector, lines can be endless and push customers to defect to other banks which offer a better technological infrastructure and quicker service. In the case of public offices, the situation is even worse as there is no choice but to wait in a long queue (hospitals, airlines, pharmacies, tax offices, town halls, etc.).
At least once in our life, we have all felt the tremendous frustration of having to wait in a queue. With that in mind, more and more companies are devoting time and resources to optimizing waiting time with one goal in mind: improving their customer experience. So, here’s the million-dollar question: how can we avoid customer dissatisfaction and leverage this waiting time? ?
1. Customer experience
Your customer journey is critical. Therefore, it is vital to limit stress throughout this journey, and not make customers waste their precious time waiting in queues. Your customers’ experience at each step of the customer journey, including queuing, can make or break their experience and relationship with your brand. In a recent study published by JDA, 78% of consumers declared they would be ready to switch brand following a bad experience. Not to mention the detrimental impact this can have on your e-reputation: with social networks, negative word-of-mouth can spread like wildfire, meaning a bad review can jeopardize your brand image
To reduce, or better still, eliminate the risk of your customers getting bored, or worse, scaring them away, you need to implement adequate resources. For example, you can identify peak times when queues start forming, and allocate your staff accordingly. With a more granular analysis, you can predict the exact type of requests your customers will have at given points in time and prepare near-automated processes that will quickly answer their needs. Stay with us to learn more on tools and ideas that might help you keep customers entertained while they wait.
The Queuing Theory
The Queuing Theory is based on the mathematical study of queues. Two factors are taken into account: the average time your tool can be fully operational without collapsing and the average waiting time.
This theory identifies a number of different types of queues, among which the multiple-server queues, the “S-shaped” serpentine queue that you can find at airports leading to the security checkpoint. The queue is structured in such a way that, slowly but surely, the crowd is constantly moving forward, towards the security checkpoint. This type of queue is known as the “line of beauty”, and for good reason: because of the feeling of constant movement, you do not realize you are waiting.
If the “snake” is long, a traditional “single-server” queue would be exponentially longer. It is estimated that the average waiting time for this kind of queueing system is three minutes (per server). Any longer than that, in retail, for example, and customers are more likely to complain, give up or walk away with a negative impression. This is why queues are so expensive for companies, and so important.
Signage can be a very useful tool to engage and entertain your customers while they are waiting in the queue. This dynamic marketing method consists in using multimedia screens, mobile/tablet apps, notifications or SMS messages to keep your customers informed about the waiting time ahead of them, but also, and most importantly, to launch or promote products. Why not also use this as an opportunity to boost cross-selling and customize your ads.
Gamification with your mobile phone
What do we all do when we are waiting in a never-ending queue? We whip out our mobile phone, right? The good news is, this is the perfect opportunity to offer an entertaining experience to your customers which, in addition to limiting boredom, will strengthen their relationship with your brand. If you manage to keep your customers entertained during this waiting time, you will definitely improve their experience with your brand. Some gamification platforms can even help you win your customers’ loyalty, entertain, inform and incentivise customers while they are waiting for their turn.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a good way of minimizing waiting time. For example, in the pharmacy of a hospital in Singapore, 80% of medicine dispensing has been automated. Small robots are used to fill patients’ prescriptions. In the blink of an eye, they find and fetch the right medicine and then send it through a chute to the pharmacist, who then checks the dosage. It’s a win-win situation: no-one loses their job and customers are happy because they do not have wait in never-ending queues for their prescription to be ready.
Digital devices can be used in queues to increase point of sale effectiveness and to collect customers’ feedback quickly and easily. A number of powerful platforms can help you find out what is on your customers’ mind at each stage of the customer journey. For example, Tadi analyses all your channels to deliver qualitative and quantitate reports on the level of satisfaction of your customers. On the business side, this data will give you a better understanding of your customer pain points and how to fix them. On the customer side, these kinds of platforms make your customers feel important and that they have a voice. Plus, it keeps them entertained.
Small surprises are always nice while you’re waiting in a queue. If your customers are entertained, they will not notice how long they spend in the queue, and their overall experience will improve.
According to Perry Kuklin, lavi Industries, in-queue merchandising can:
- Increase impulse purchases, and consequently, sales
- Facilitate customer flow while keeping them entertained
- Change waiting time perception and increase satisfaction
4. Measure outcomes
Whether you choose to entertain your customers through tactile devices, social media or mobile applications, it is crucial that you collect and analyse your data in order to measure the success (the famous ROI!) of the efforts you implement to improve your customers’ waiting time. If you don’t know what you are doing wrong, chances are, you will not be able to make it right.
Leverage technologies to gather valuable information about your brand, your customer journey, your customers’s experience and to adapt your processes and services to ultimately improve your customers’ loyalty.
After all, time is money. So, make the most of it!