Customer Experience: How to avoid ruining it by improving queue management

Differentiate or die. This motto summarizes the main strategies of all those who sell products or services. However, differentiating is increasingly difficult, because everything is copied at an amazing speed: products, services, stores, websites, business models … 

Therefore, many companies and SMEs bet, increasingly, for the Customer Experience as great differentiating element. Also known as Shopping Experience, it combines elements of more traditional Marketing with newer ones such as Sensory Marketing and seeks to turn an act as simple as buying a product into a memorable experience and, generally, difficult to copy.

Sometimes, the efforts of these companies are spoiled at the last moment, when a poorly managed queue of clients turns an unforgettable purchase into a nightmare.

The main problem with bad queue management is to realize that you have a problem.

This is because the waiting time is relative . For the seller, cashier or owner, it is work time. For the client, it’s leisure time lost. Therefore, the perception also changes and, thus, the ten minutes that correspond to the reals for the seller, will appear fifteen or more to the customer, and so on.

Every minute that your client considers wasted, the value perceived in his purchase will decrease. If the queue has been originated by a promotion or offer, the client may not value it as such, when interpreting that it receives a service of inferior quality. This, in the medium term, can make this type of actions stop having the desired effectiveness.

Causing your client to waste their limited free time will achieve the opposite effect to the desired one : it will associate your company, brand, product or service with a negative experience. It will be even worse if the delay causes some other unpleasant effect such as losing a means of transport, being late to work or the dislike of the little one in the house. If the situation is habitual, your client may come to assume it as a lack of consideration or respect and, most likely, it will mean the loss of the client and the possible spread of his discomfort.

There are very specific cases, in which a large waiting queue seeks to convey a sense of great expectation, or exclusivity , but they are few and must be well managed so as not to be considered negative. Examples of this type can be found in artists’ concerts, launching high-impact products or access to fashion venues.

However, in most cases, a large waiting queue will scare away potential customers and will not talk very well about the efficiency of your business. In addition, it will complicate the transit of the rest of your customers through the commercial space and break their flow, designed to go through the maximum space within the store and, therefore, reduce their sales potential.

In the case of having ‘express boxes’, which generally admit a maximum of ten items, there will be customers who renounce part of the items purchased to avoid the queues of the other boxes.

It is quite evident the damage that can cause a deficient or nonexistent queue management. But what can we do to solve it ?:

Dimension the number of boxes . Obviously, you can not take as reference the highest peaks of the year, but you should have a number of POS (terminal point of sale), datáphones and personnel to deal with situations reasonably close to these peaks.

Use historical data. As in the world of investments, ‘past sales do not guarantee future sales’, but in the historical data you can obtain several very valuable indicators to size the boxes and the personnel. There are complex queue management software for large businesses but, if it is not your case, a basic indicator will be the ability to process charging per box and hour, which, combined with the estimated average billing, will yield the ideal number of boxes to absorb the anticipated demand.

Avoid stressful elements. For example, the misuse of the musical setting. Because of the ability of music to alter the heart rate, fast music is used to ‘speed up’ the client’s activity and get him to consume more in less time. On the other hand, strident or high-volume music seeks to annul or hinder the consumer’s capacity for concentration, and therefore analysis, by inducing him to buy in an unreflective manner; this is why we lower the volume of the radio when we parked the car. These techniques increase the irritation and anxiety of the client who waits in the queue and produces the sensation that time runs even slower.

Use the single row or an automatic shift system. This will avoid adding more stress, both by avoiding thinking that other queues go faster and making it harder for someone to ‘sneak in’. This option requires a delimitation of the route of the queue and has the advantage of facilitating the purchase of products ‘of impulse’, arranged for this purpose in the journey. For smaller spaces and certain types of sales, a numbered tickets dispenser can be a good solution for the client to wait his turn doing what he considers appropriate.

Rethink the anti-theft policy and other. After a good study, it can be concluded, in the sale of certain products, which is more expensive, in personnel costs of cash and systems, the use and deactivation of anti-theft systems, that the increase in the theft that could occur there are no such measures. The same goes for the hangers: removing them, storing them and reusing them may be more expensive, due to the time spent, than delivering them together with the garments.

Use technology . With a tablet or laptop, you can have a mobile POS, which can advance through the queue advancing the process of ordering or charging. They are also widely used wireless dataphones, which allow a charge at any point of the store.

Inform, compensate and apologize. When the client’s discomfort can not be avoided, the least that should be done is to inform the estimated time of waiting, compensate this discomfort with some small detail and, above all, apologize.

Getting a memorable Customer Experience is not easy, do not let bad queue management ruin it.

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