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How Long Queues Hurt Your Bottom Line More than Wait Times

queue length

There’s a huge misconception in the retail industry. Many retailers place more emphasis on lowering the wait times for customers standing in a queue. In actuality, it’s the length of the queue that matters more.

The queue wait time is how long a person is standing in line. The queue length is how many people are in line ahead of the customer. The difference is slight but important.

Why It Matters

When a customer glances at a queue, they automatically make assumptions about how long they’ll have to stand and wait. This assumption is killer to sales and overall satisfaction. Wait times can be manipulated to feel more enjoyable. When a heavier focus is put on what happens during a wait time instead of shortening the line, the customer’s experience improves.

Has your store emphasized lowering queue length over improving queue wait times? Here are a few solutions to help you revise your approach to queues.

  1. Understand Your Customer’s Behavior

Stop! Before you start tweaking your store to make adjustments to your customer’s experience, take a step back. Consider your buyer’s behavior and preferences.

For example, does your buyer respond better when there are customer associates ready to serve her? Try adding more associates to the store by offering a mobile pay option. She’ll never have to wait in line.

Or does your customer use her phone a lot while shopping? Implement technology to allow her to receive text messages about available fitting rooms so she never has to wait in line.

Once you know what your customers do in-store, you can find areas to improve your buyer’s experience.

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  1. Consider Renovations

Do your lines look intimidating? Are they the first thing a customer sees when walking into your store? You might want to consider renovating your layout.

But be careful! Renovations sound daunting because they are. If you’re not careful, they can have diminishing returns. To know if renovations make sense for your store, consider how long people are waiting and what they’re doing during that wait. For example, if your fitting rooms are constantly full, it’s probably time to add a few more. If the line gets backed up a person or two during a rush, you might not need to renovate.

Related Post: Retailers: Learn From the Houston Airport How to Lower Wait Times

  1. Shorten Up Your Lines

Work your magic. Make your lines appear shorter than they are by splitting them up. You can separate lines across the store by offering multiple cashout stations. Or, you can encourage people to queue up in two different locations, reducing the overwhelming look of a long line.

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  1. Set Expectations Up Front

Let your customers know up front how long they’ll have to wait.

This is especially important in fitting rooms where sales are made. You don’t want your customer changing her mind while waiting in line. Instead, show how many rooms are occupied and how long they’ve been occupied. It’ll let your customer know approximately how much longer she’ll have to wait to get into a room. Don’t make her guess.

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What’s Your Queue Costing Your Store?

It’s an important question. If you’re not sure, download our free ebook, “What is Your Queue Costing You? Queue Management for Modern Retailers.” In it, you’ll learn the importance of better queue management and why ignoring this facet of your business is so costly.

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