Let’s face it. Everyone hates waiting. Whatever the service – waiting for a table at a café, for your laptop to be looked at or for car repairs, Consumer Reports says that
for 62 percent of consumers, waiting is the most stressful aspect of the retail experience.
Lines lines everywhere
And customers aren’t just waiting; they’re waiting in a never-ending stream of lines. It happens everywhere. For service-oriented businesses, this is the norm, especially during peak rush hours.
Customers are faced with lines and long waits in countless instances, such as:
- Receiving assistance in department stores, then again at check out, and yet again if they wish to return a purchase
- Waiting for short two-minute amusement park ride
- Waiting to see Santa in the mall
- Waiting for a table at their favorite restaurant
- Waiting for their car to be serviced
Studies show that what frustrates people most is the perception that the waiting is needless – they feel it’s just wasted time or an inconvenient slow-down in their busy schedules. From a business standpoint, customers frustrated at the speed-of-service means there’s less chance of repeat visit.
A lot of retailers are missing a big opportunity in these instances. Why not take steps to modify this perception and give the customer a better guest experience?
Better things to do
Since “the wait” is simply unavoidable sometimes, what if you could instead use that time to your advantage? You can’t eliminate the wait altogether, but you can make it more palatable – and improve the bottom line, too.
What if, in the examples above, customers received a guest pager when they arrived? Instead of being chained to an endless line of people or a specific area, they could:
- Browse the store, increasing chances for additional purchases
- Buy the kids lunch and souvenirs until it’s their turn for the Texas Tornado ride
- Check a few more gifts off the holiday shopping list until it’s time to see Mr. Claus
- Relax in the bar area, boosting appetizer and beverage sales
- Browse the new car showroom, perhaps deciding it’s time to trade up
This does far more than just efficiently manage a waitlist. When customers are freed from the waiting room and can wander and shop instead – potentially generating more sales. Perhaps more importantly, customers’ perception of wait time – regardless of length – is lessened. Instead of being bored and impatient, they can actually enjoy themselves. Happier customers are more likely to return.
What the wait can tell us
But there’s even more to it than improving the guest experience and revenue. Today devices – everything from guest pagers to location trackers – have become truly smart. They can record and analyze data, which provides extremely valuable insights and gives businesses a whole new level of visibility into their operations.
For example, a guest pager can record basic information, such as the guest’s arrival time, notification time and when they return to the podium. When stored in a central hub with data for other guests, the information can provide operational statistics about service delivery, guest volume and flow, peak demand times and more. These metrics can create valuable service benchmarks, allowing comparisons between multiple shifts and locations. In turn, these can reveal bottlenecks and lead to staffing optimization.
And that’s just the beginning. Imagine if operators could also analyze where customers spent that time, and even what they bought while waiting? When combined with data from other smart devices and sensors, trends emerge that let us tailor and optimize everything from personnel and supply chain to which services are most profitable.
Taking advantage can be a good thing
In service industries, waiting in line is unavoidable. But it no longer has to feel like a waste of time, either for customers or for merchants. Using technologies like guest pagers, location tracking and more, we can free our guests from the lines, leading to increased sales and more repeat business. By analyzing the data from such devices with an Operational Management System, we can take advantage of insights we’d never before imagined. And that’s good news for everyone.
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Michelle Strong is chief marketing officer at LRS and an advocate for meaningful customer engagement.