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Happy Customers in Line – 4 Easy Retail Queue Management Tips

retail queue management and happy customers

How are you managing the time customers spend in line?

Do you know that you should probably do something about it, but are not necessarily convinced that your lines are a big problem?

Well, you’d be wrong!

It’s easy to say that nobody likes to wait in line, but some will argue it’s just a fact of life. However, many customers cite poor queue management as the death knell for a prospective purchase. In fact, 75% of retailers will lose a sale because of wait related issues.

What’s worse is that a customer who walked out empty-handed is probably never coming back, and they will talk about their experience to anyone who will listen.

It’s a shame to see the time and money retailers have invested in improving customer engagement wasted because of frustration in the final moments of a transaction. Efficient queue management doesn’t mean overhauling the design of the store. There are simple, effective strategies that can be implemented right now!

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Steps to Effective Queue Management

There are many ways to ensure a customer’s time in line is spent feeling comfortable and well served, rather than confused and anxious.

1.  Set Clear Goals

Like most initiatives aimed at bringing about change, queue management starts with setting clear goals, identifying how far the current state is from those goals, and testing and refining strategies for improvement.

The most obvious goal in managing retail queues is to improve service times. This can’t be done without gathering some benchmark data.

The first step to reducing the time spent in line is measuring current wait times. Once you know how long customers are waiting in line, you can aim to reduce the average wait time and work towards establishing an allowed maximum.

Apparel retailers must bear in mind that fitting room queues are just as important – if not more so – than the checkout lines. Remember, a customer makes their ultimate purchase decision in the fitting room. They can’t make that decision if they can’t get into a fitting room because of long lines!

use retail queue management to avoid long lines

2.  Refine with Analytics

Queue management isn’t a “one-and-done” deal. It’s a process that has to be tweaked and refined as the flow patterns change at different times of the day and through different seasons. The importance of in-store analytics simply cannot be overstated.

A relatively new school of thought is that of active management to keep wait times short. Essentially, this entails reallocating staff to different areas of the store to ensure maximum efficiency. When a retail giant like Apple starts employing a queue management strategy in their stores, it’s time to start taking notes.

It’s important to keep in mind that active management works best in conjunction with video analytics to monitor flow patterns in all areas of the store. Analyzing video quickly lets a manager know when it’s time to open an additional register in one part of the store, for example.

For most customers, the perception of a long line is enough to bring a sense of dread, especially when it looks like that line isn’t moving.

3.  Keep it Simple

Your customers will relax about queues more if they are clear about what to expect. One of the biggest irritants is confusion around the start and end points of lines. Something as simple as stanchions and a sign reading “Wait here for next available checkout” costs virtually nothing, and yet it goes a long way to keeping customers informed.

Customers also want some sense of how long they’re going to be waiting. The restaurant industry gave us the gift of that little buzzer that lets you do something else while waiting for a table. The use of this technology has spread, with great success, to other service-oriented operations.

How are apparel retailers using technology to manage fitting room queues?

  • Allow customers to leave a name and number, then automatically send them a text when their room is ready, rather than have them wait in line.
  • Install automated occupancy sensors inside of fitting rooms with indicator lights on the outside to show whether they are occupied at a glance. These are especially helpful when rooms are unattended so that customers avoid having to knock.
  • Install iPad displays that provide the total number of rooms and show which are occupied at the entrance to the bank of fitting rooms. These can be utilized to estimate total wait times at a glance or even calculate it automatically based on statistics the store has captured for average time in a room.

4.  Boredom is the Enemy of Long Lines

Perhaps the most agitating thing about waiting in line is the feeling of powerlessness. The best way to ensure that customers aren’t getting more annoyed by the second is giving them something to do.

Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time. When you have something to distract yourself, time passes more quickly. – Gretchen Rubin,

One great way to keep shoppers occupied is by lining the path to the register and the area near the fitting rooms with inexpensive items for their consideration. It’s a passive upsell strategy that also keeps customers’ minds off the time they are waiting in line.

When you give your customers something to do while they wait, the time will fly by and the wait will be less noticeable and irritating.

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The Final Word on Retail Queue Management

Nobody likes to wait in line even though it is a fact of life. However, store lines can make customers walk out without completing their intended purchase. With effective queue management in mind, retailers can make the shopping experience fun and lucrative.

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Are you looking for solutions to improve your retail queue management? Our Sense solution answers a lot of the questions I hear from retailers about how to energize sales associates, create a repeatable process in the fitting room, and maximize the conversion of in-store traffic.

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