Nobody has ever signed up for waiting in lines - but they are inevitable regardless of whether we are in a supermarket, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or transferring funds at the bank. Different businesses manage the queue differently, which could impact the customer experience accordingly.
Here are 7 tips for smart entrepreneurs who want to reduce the tension and increase the number of recurring customers for their brick and mortar business.
1. Personalized Experience
Providing a service doesn’t have to be anonymous. Think of Starbucks - even though they don’t know you at first, baristas ask for your name and write it down on your cup. A few drinks later regular customers don’t even have to say their name, and they often receive their “usual” at the bar before even ordering.
Store and venue owners can improve their customer experience at waiting lines by:
- Implementing a software that takes care of personalized service
- Training their staff to switch from generic to personal communication when interacting with customers.
Even if you are worried about casual mistakes at first, see how you can turn them into a promotional channel for yourself.
2. Magazines and Newspapers
Waiting for half an hour or more may lead to a lot of tension for everyone at the line - or even losing some of your customers. Have you been in a shopping mall (about to visit the bank, grab a coffee or pay your bills), giving up once you see a long line ahead?
Installing magazine and newspaper stands in your waiting area would distract people for some time, or even convince them to stop by more often when you are competing with other owners providing a similar service in your area.
Depending on your audience, you can select your compilation carefully - more conservative venues would likely benefit from political newspapers, sports bars can use baseball or football magazines, and veterinarians can offer educational papers for dog and cat owners. An extra tip would be providing puzzle magazines with crosswords, sudoko or other games, together with branded pencils for people to use and fill up while waiting.
Installing TV screens in your room could also improve the customer experience in a waiting line. You can turn a music channel on, or a sports one with the latest game running at the moment. Pick a cartoon or even a movie depending on what works best for your visitors.
Think about your local pub or bar with regulars who meet and watch games together, or boutique places that gather people for a “Game of Thrones” night. Your regulars can plan their schedule around some series, and quit cancelling their appointments when overlapping with a sports game.
4. Brochures and Bonus Points
Brochures are often used in large chain stores or banks, but quite a few businesses are yet to upsell their services to their visitors stuck in lines.
You can compile your latest products or promotions on a weekly/monthly basis, and present them to people waiting in line. Often customers stop by for something, but can certainly benefit from other services or products provided by your staff. Recurring customers could take advantage of bonus point programs, turning them into loyal clients and even ambassadors of your business.
Examples for using brochures:
- Banks sell credits, pitch new credit cards, or offer packages with discounted withdraw fees
- Supermarkets list their discounts or offer their promotional cards accumulating bonus points
- Gas stations offer bonus points for discounted gas bill or 20% off for certain products sold there exclusively
- Telecoms list their best plans, promotions, and the latest cell phones that you can grab when signing a 2-year contract
- Universities list their top accomplishments, alumni programs are outline their best programs - since high school graduates often apply to several places
5. Guerilla Marketing
By definition, guerilla marketing is a creative advertisement strategy for business owners coming up with memorable ideas to promote their brand in an unconventional way at a low cost. Those can be implemented everywhere, including waiting lines, as you can see in The 80 Best Guerilla Marketing Ideas I’ve Ever Seen.
If your marketing team can come up with some ideas, a guerilla campaign can support your brand awareness. It could even increase your exposure online from visitors taking photos of your campaigns and sharing them with friends.
Otherwise you can reach out to your partners and discuss ways to generate additional revenue by promoting their services in your place.
Why not place a coach like this for customers waiting for their turn?
If you have ever played video games, you are probably familiar with the idea of quests. Game architects come up with series of events that players need to follow in order to gain experience, receive gold, and advance in a game.
Quest “adventures” are available in large luna parks and all sorts of amusement parks around the world. Customers can get discounts for a site if they have visited a previous attraction prior to that, or in case they managed to escape from a tunnel within a certain amount of time.
Gamification is a big thing in today’s world, and while it has started primarily in the gaming communities and among teenagers, the past 10 years have switched the model completely, making it accessible to everyone.
When using a software for managing your queue, your customers don’t need to stand still in an actual line in order to keep their spot. Which is why venue owners can introduce monthly games where customers need to go through a series of challenges and achieve a priority status (through discounts or added service benefits).
In addition to making the whole experience fun and adventurous, it could allow your visitors to go to other venues in the same area while waiting, thus sharing customers with other local businesses and allocating buffer for more people waiting in your place.
7. Provide Longer Waiting Estimates
Now, this may seem contradictory as people hate waiting anyway. But there is one universal thing that customers hate more than waiting: waiting longer than what they’ve been promised at first.
It’s a common struggle for fast food chains who promise “fast food”, and often take much longer whenever several customers are waiting in line. This causes conflicts and even expressing dissatisfaction online in forums and social media.
Amusement parks often disclose extended waiting times and, whenever they deliver faster, customers are excited and thrilled about receiving outstanding customer experience. Airline companies follow that model, too.
This is not applicable in every single case, but works like a charm for many businesses - managing expectations through the “Underpromise and Overdeliver” mantra.
Mario Peshev is the CEO of DevriX, a digital solutions provider specializing in long-term partnerships with SME and fast-paced startups.