The only thing worse for your business than an angry customer is an angry customer who feels that you have misled them in some way. Customers need to trust that the company they’re working with has their best interests at heart before they give them money, and one way to earn that trust is to be as upfront and honest as possible. This is true of every facet of business no matter what industry you work in, but it’s especially important when it comes to wait times.
Restaurants, retail stores, repair services, and many other types of businesses will likely require their customers to wait at some point during the transaction. This is an inevitable part of life, but in an age where attention spans are shortening, and people are programmed for instant gratification, wait times can be devastating to your business. A study done by Northwestern University found that when standing in a fast food line, the amount a customer is willing to pay decreases each extra second that they’re waiting.
What Can You do About it?
Since waits are inevitable, the first thing you, as a business, should do is figure out how to decrease that overall wait time (and as you now know, even seconds are important). The second thing you should do is keep your customer in-the-know about their wait. There are a couple of different ways that you can do this, and combining all of them is usually the best way to show your customers that their time is extremely valuable to you.
1. Display Your Wait Times
Emergency rooms are notorious for their waits, which is why a lot of them have started putting up billboards along major roads with a digital screen that tells you how long their current wait time is. One of the worst parts about waiting is not knowing how long you’re going to wait, but if you have the information ahead of time, you’re going to be a lot more comfortable with it.
Restaurants have also taken to displaying their wait times on the exterior of their building (though, admittedly, they seem to advertise “no wait” a lot more than they do when they actually have a wait). If you own a little restaurant on a popularly-walked street downtown, you can accomplish this by simply putting a chalkboard out in front of your door and updating it when the wait significantly changes.
Related Post: How to Turn Customer Wait Time Into an Experience
2. Post Your Wait Times
If you own a business in 2015, you’re probably linked to all the major social media websites. Use them to keep your customers informed. If you have almost no wait, post a status update about it; if you’re expecting a long wait, send out a Tweet encouraging your customers to “Get here early!” This will not only inform the customers who were already thinking about visiting you that day, but it will also keep you fresh in the minds of customers who may have been planning on going somewhere else.
In addition to posting wait times, you should also give your customers the opportunity to ask you and get a quick response. Again, many emergency rooms have been using this strategy by giving patients the ability to text them and receive wait time information instantly. This can work for any business that typically experiences a significant wait.
3. Keep Your Customers Updated
If the wait time changes for any reason, you should instantly let your customers know. Sometimes, in a restaurant, a customer’s meal is cooked incorrectly, and the kitchen staff realizes the mistake before the plate goes out to the table. Instead of simply remaking it and not telling the customer that their wait time has now increased, you should instantly remake it and immediately inform the table that they’ll be waiting a little longer.
When people experience uncertainty or unfairness in waiting situations they feel some stress. That stress, even if it’s only a small amount, makes the wait seem longer. – Greg Poirier, Livelenz
Customers would much rather know that you made a mistake and are keeping them informed about it rather than not know about the mistake and instead wonder why their food (or product, service, etc.) took so long. The last paragraph of this article talks a little more about this concept.
Make Your Customers Happy and Build Customer Trust by Keeping Them Informed
Now that you know about the importance of keeping your customers in-the-know and have some tips on how to do so, you should see your profits start to go up. If a customer walks into your clothing shop and sees a long line, they may not even bother shopping… but if you have a tablet posted on the wall next to the door with a digital readout of the average wait time, they may think “that’s not bad” and decide to give you their business.
If you are a retail store that is struggling to keep customers happy due to long wait times, download our guide with 9 Queue Management tips for retailers.