Enticed by the abundance of vowels and motivated by a spirited delight in facilitating personalised and human visitor experiences, Hakim is a digital content strategist at Wavetec. She specialises in the articulation of queue management and self-service solutions, edifying them to wider networks of businesses.
In This Blog:
- Why are long waits detrimental to customer satisfaction?
- What steps can be taken to reduce actual and perceived wait times?
Waiting in line is part and parcel of most consumer experiences. On some level, queues are inescapable even, as consumer demand will always be higher than the number of counters and service providers available.
Trouble emerges when the number of satisfied customers with good experiences outweigh the number of dissatisfied customers with complaints. Since the key aspect in customer service is the experience of the customer, it is essential to take steps to avoid stressed consumers defecting to competitors. Most businesses ask, how can we reduce queuing wait times?
To help with this, the blog that follows explains and solves the waiting line problems discussed above.
What are the different kinds of waiting queues?
These are seen in stores and branches where there is a single counter serving all customers and the queue formed is a singular winding, snake-like affair.
This system requires floor space and journey flow planning. It admits customers on the basis of first-come first-serve.
These are seen in stores and branches where there are multiple counters serving customers, resulting in many parallel queues to choose from.
Both of the above queues take about the same amount of time to reach the front of, with parallel queues having larger variance as a customer can be served faster or slower than anticipated.
Single-line, multiple server queues
This is a hybrid of the above types of queues, beginning with the customer joining a single queue. As their turn arrives, the queue will split into multiple different counters which the customer can approach to be served.
What are the factors influencing people’s experiences of waiting in line?
Ideation of fairness
If I have fewer items than you but you are ahead of me in the queue, I may think this is unfair as I would take a shorter time to be served. What seems fair to us is a relative judgement based on the value we ascribe to our time and the products and services we are purchasing.
Breaking or skipping the queue is seen as unfair to those who are waiting in line for their turn.
Management of expectations
Customers expect to be served efficiently and quickly. Their personal estimates of how long the wait may be, how many more tasks they hope to accomplish that day, or whether they have appointments to rush to, all impact their expectations.
The perceived value of the service or product they are queuing for also has an impact on their patience for longer queues - the higher the value, the longer they are willing to queue.
Perception of wait times
Depending on what your day looks like, what other tasks you have to complete and how much time you have allotted the task you are queuing for, your perception of wait time varies. This is different from the time actually spent waiting - it is how long you think or feel like you have been waiting for.
There are several factors that can increase or decrease this.
What are the impacts of long queues and waits?
Higher customer turn-away rate
Customers will be lost to competitors who have shorter and better managed queues. This will result in lower revenue and profits for the business as well as a dwindling customer base.
Loss of brand image and equity
Word of mouth is the best marketing and advertisement that any business could hope for. Once customers experience poor service, they are likely to inform and warn others. Similarly faster service delivery than others in the industry could mean an improved image of your brand, ensuring increased customer volumes.
How can the customer experience of waiting in line be improved and optimized?
The shortest answer is to deploy a holistic queue management system. This will integrate all aspects of the customer experience to reduce waiting time and improve service delivery. The more detailed response is as follows:
To queue virtually is to do so from the comfort of your home or space, contactlessly and remotely. Clients will either already have an appointment booked or will scan a QR code or follow directions on a mobile app or website to be issued a ticket.
Once their virtual place in the queue is secured, they will begin receiving regular notifications about their position in the queue, how much longer their wait is and other information regarding where they must arrive, with what materials, etc.
Without the need to be physically present in the line, customers can utilize their time more efficiently and skip the queue entirely. Crowds will disperse from outside your store and customer satisfaction numbers will soar.
Wavetec’s Virtual Queue Management solutions are designed to support the modern client of a digitized business. These include our innovative WhatsApp Queuing software that supports simple and swift digital onboarding, queuing and feedback registration.
Appointment scheduling and booking software
Pre Scheduling appointments, prior to arrival on-premises, is a sure way to reduce queuing crowds. Customers visit the website or business application and select the branch, service and time suitable for them. Once they are booked, they will receive regular notifications via SMS, email or application about their appointment details.
This allows them to arrive at the time allotted for them, skip the queue using priority queuing, be served and sent on their way. The result is streamlined waits, predicted flows and reduced wait times.
Wavetec’s Appointment scheduling and booking software is custom built for your business needs to help anticipate branch traffic, and prepare for it.
Data-driven predictive planning
Using Wavetec’s Spectra dashboards and reporting software and hardware solution, businesses can reduce crowds, queue lengths and waiting times by collecting queuing data, analyzing it and generating reports.
These will facilitate better and more informed decision making, leading to improved management practices, service delivery and higher customer satisfaction.
Another aspect of planning is collecting and acting on customer feedback. These allow businesses to know exactly what their customers think and want. With their finger firmly on the pulse of client interest, businesses can not go wrong.
Priority queuing and calling
Customers can be divided according to the business they provide or the benefits they are entitled to, for example appointment holders, VIPs, those holding loyalty cards or even those with fewer items in their cart.
This allows them to queue with priority, be served quickly and effectively, as in accordance with their special or privileged needs. The result is more optimized service delivery, shorter queues using categorization and increased consumer satisfaction with personalization.
Digital signage distractions and managed customer expectations
Customers appreciate transparency and being kept in the loop regarding waiting times. This will help better inform their perception of the wait, and remove the uncertainty and stress from the process.
The goal is to transform passive waiting into active waiting. It is the inactivity that frustrates consumers who would rather prefer to be kept engaged and entertained while they wait. To entertain those waiting in line, digital signage solutions can be deployed. These will:
- Advertise and market new promotions, discounts and product ranges - creating more cross- and up-selling opportunities
- Provide real-time updates and notifications about queuing information and statistics, like estimated wait times and the ticket number currently being served
- Disseminate information about Covid19, SOPs and operational timings
- Guide customers through the store to service areas, thereby freeing up staff and increasing efficiency
The result will be better informed, guided and satisfied consumers, with more accurate perceptions of waiting times.