If we were to add up the amount of time we spend waiting in line every year, we’d probably be pretty shocked at the final number. It’s best not to think about it too much.
Sometimes, though, the wait is more unpleasant in some places than it is in others. The line to renew your driver’s license is unbearable, and if it weren’t mandatory, you would never set foot in a DMV office again. But the wait for a table at a restaurant, when you’re comfortably seated at the bar with a drink in your hand, isn’t so bad.
Other than the presence of alcohol in the latter scenario, there are a few things that set the two waiting experiences apart, and it has a lot to do with queue management. In fact, there are five things your customers wish you knew about queue management.
1. Focus on the Entire Customer Experience
The notion of queue management immediately brings to mind ways to get people through the line at the cashwrap more quickly. That’s certainly helpful, but it doesn’t really do much to improve the overall shopping experience.
If a customer leaves empty-handed, it’s important to ask why. Maybe the line-up at the cashwrap was just the last straw after they waited 10 minutes for a fitting room and then couldn’t find someone help them get another size.
When you learn more about what delights and frustrates customers, you can make process changes that improve the overall shopping experience.
2. Help Customers Pass the Time in Line
The advent of the smartphone has made waits for the doctor or a delayed flight infinitely more tolerable. Why? When people are distracted, they are less focused on their boredom, and, therefore, less impatient.
It can be as simple having a fitting room associate available to engage customers while they wait to try on clothes, or a TV to entertain people waiting at the cashwrap. By giving customers something to do while they wait, you shift their perception of the lines in your store and improve customer satisfaction.
3. Watch Out for Roadblocks in Store Layout
While a total renovation may not be in the cards, tweaks to the store layout may remove literal impediments in the customer’s journey. Remember, in many cases, perception is a reality.
If long lines for the fitting room are consistently a barrier, it’s time to add more. When a line for the cashwrap *looks* long, even if it’s moving quickly and efficiently, it is off-putting to customers. If this line is the first thing a customer sees, it may put them off shopping your store at all.
A clear path to all points in the store does more than improve appearances; it’s a critical element of a positive shopping experience.
4. Allow Customers to Stay Informed
You know where people spend A LOT of time waiting in line? Disney World. Park visitors spend the vast majority of their time in the Happiest Place on Earth waiting for something to happen. And yet, it often doesn’t feel like waiting in line at all. There is entertainment virtually everywhere, but better still, there are signs and even an app to let you know how long the wait will be for each attraction.
You probably don’t have the Disney-sized resources at your fingertips, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep customers informed. Someone facing the prospect of a long line to use a fitting room may decide on their own that they can live without their purchase for another day.
The implementation of technological solutions, like occupancy indicators for fitting rooms, lets customers know that you respect their time and are doing everything you can to help move things along for them. It also means they’re not waiting unnecessarily because an associate thought a vacant fitting room was occupied.
5. Ensure Reasonable Wait Times
There are many strategies you can implement to make the time customers spend in line seem less frustrating. You may wonder if reducing overall wait times is important. It is. No amount of entertainment or information is going to lengthen a shopper’s lunch break.
If there are consistently long lines for fitting rooms or the cashwrap, this needs to be addressed. You are losing money every time a customer leaves empty-handed, and it will only happen once or twice before that customer finds somewhere else to shop.
You won’t know if it’s a problem with the layout of the store or a miscalculation of required staffing levels until you dig into the kind of data you can collect with people counting. Analyzing traffic patterns is more than a worthwhile exercise, it’s critical to the success of your store!
The Last Word
Nobody enjoys waiting in line, but a few simple strategies can help maintain a positive experience while customers wait. By getting to know what delights your customers, and what frustrates them, you can adjust wait times and make your store their go-to shopping destination.
Need more ideas to improve queue management? Download your free copy of “What is Your Queue Costing You?” here today!