Here’s one thing that doesn’t shrink in today’s economy: queues.
People are waiting longer and more frequently for a variety of services. Customer service call center wait times, for example, have skyrocketed. Businesses have been hit by the perfect storm as Covid-19 lockdowns funneled more inquiries to call centers, while limiting the number of employees available to contact them.
And even if, before Covid, people were used to waiting (at least a little) for the 800 line or the chat service, they are now being asked to queue for a whole range of activities.
Social distancing has led businesses to drastically reduce in-store capacity, resulting in long lines of customers just trying to enter the store. People are lining up for their takeout orders as many restaurants remain closed for indoor dining. They are lining up outside hairdressers, doctors’ surgeries and car repair shops, as customer waiting areas are closed to minimize person-to-person contact.
All of this can be quite infuriating for customers. And while it’s probably a bit too much for the customer to fight pleasure During the queuing experience, companies can do many things to make wait times more acceptable and less loyalty-inducing:
1. Set expectations.
It’s a strange but true psychological fact: Known waits feel shorter (and less unpleasant) than unknown waits. By simply setting a (relatively accurate) wait time expectation, you can make customers feel better about the act of waiting. For example, post dynamically updated call/chat wait times on your website, so people know what they’re getting into before asking for help. Incorporate the same information into automated 800-line greetings. Use physical signage to set wait time expectations for in-person lines (or simply have an employee handling inbound traffic periodically cross the line, providing wait time estimates to those who are there).
2. Provide alternatives.
Once people see the length of a queue, if they don’t want to wait, try to provide alternative resources to meet their needs. This could take the form of a clear and intuitive e-commerce site (to avoid phone orders altogether, as well as failed orders on the website that require a channel change to phone). The online chat feature can also be useful, as it eases capacity constraints by allowing service agents to handle multiple requests simultaneously. Even something as simple as a comprehensive, clearly written, and well-organized set of FAQs can help some customers skip the lines and get basic questions answered.
3. Offer a virtual queue.
If there’s one thing that can make a long wait more enjoyable, it’s being able to go about your day waiting, instead of being glued to a phone, stuck in front of a computer, or stuck in a periodically advancing physical line. like a queue- Zombie obsessed. Virtual queuing technology offers a solution. It saves people’s places in the queue, then calls them back, starts a chat session, or sends them a text message when they reach the start of the queue (whether to speak to a service representative , see the doctor or enter the grocery store). One major catch: try to structure the virtual queuing platform so that it keeps the customer up to date on their progress in the queue (since this is one of the obvious benefits of a queue physical waiting).
4. Encourage “one and done” interactions.
Perhaps the worst way to deal with long queues is to have customers experience them twice (or more) in a single interaction. Few things are more aggravating than waiting in a line for 45 minutes, only to be told you need to call back or be transferred and wait. another one waiting line. Meeting a customer’s needs on their first call, first conversation or first visit is always important – but even more so now, when people have to endure long waits just to get that first interaction.
Give staff the resources they need to fully assist customers who come before them. In contact centers, set up expert internal lines of communication, so less experienced agents can quickly get help from colleagues. Use wireless headsets to provide a similar safety net for retail store employees, so help is at hand. Organize employees into cross-functional service teams, so that while a single individual cannot provide “one and done” certainty, a small group with complementary expertise could. And, finally, build time into employees’ schedules so they can take ownership of solving difficult problems, even if it requires additional behind-the-scenes work and follow-up with the customer.
All of these techniques can help ensure that if you put your customers on long waits, they at least only have to wait once.
5. Anticipate customer requests.
Finally, remember that the most effective way to make a customer’s wait more enjoyable is to first avoid the need to wait. So while the strategies outlined above are important in making the waiting experience more bearable, don’t lose sight of the opportunities for anticipate customer requests by making improvements upstream. More polished customer communications, better product images/descriptions on the website, more intuitive product assembly/activation procedures – these are all examples of upstream activities that, if properly orchestrated, can help avoid downstream requests and long queues.
Queues are an integral part of any business’ client experience. As such, they deserve to be managed as deliberately and intentionally as more obvious customer interaction points (such as the products you sell or the services you provide).
For many companies, completely eliminating all queues at all times is probably not a reasonable goal (especially in light of pandemic-induced changes in consumer behavior). However, there are certainly tactics every business can use to help make queuing a tolerable nuisance in the customer experience, rather than a defining feature.
Business leaders would be wise to capitalize on these queue management opportunities. Otherwise they might find themselves wait a long time – for their customers to come back.
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