After arrival and queue entry most customers will endure a period of waiting. A balanced and controlled waiting period is the desired optimum result of any manager.
No one wants to have a completely empty waiting area, as it would most likely mean you are overstaffed. Besides, an empty shop or service area gives an impression of abandonment and will not attract customers.
Equally, too many customers waiting is simply as off-putting.
Customer Journey Management can help managers get the balance just right by improving staff planning and by adding more flexibility to the processes. From a journey perspective this step has the greatest risk of impacting customer service experience negatively if not managed appropriately. A customer who perceives waiting as long is usually not satisfied with the service. Customer Flow Management offers two approaches to manage this.
The first is to minimize actual waiting. By choosing the most appropriate queuing principle and using available Customer Flow Management tools to plan staffing and monitor waiting in real-time the service provider can actively manage waiting time.
Another approach, which does not exclude the first, is to minimize the perceived waiting time. This can be made by engaging the customer in active waiting, e.g. fill the waiting time with activities that reduce the perceived waiting time and hence enhance the customer experience.
Imagine for example, being able to broadcast specific messages, targeted at the customers who are currently in your front office or in your shop. A service provider using Customer Flow Management in an advanced manner can identify who is currently visiting and the manager can, using targeted broadcasting, keep them informed and/or entertained while waiting, even using adverts reflecting their specific interests.
Other opportunities that both reduce the perceived waiting time and create additional value for the service provider are to:
- engage the customer in activities to prepare for the service and reduce workload for staff, e.g. by filling out forms etc.
- create opportunities for further shopping while waiting, either through strategically placed goods where the customers are waiting or by allowing the customers to move freely around the service providers premises while waiting to be served
- use media to stimulate further sales. If the service provider knows which individual customers are waiting, the media content can be adapted to target the specific needs of the customers waiting.
The queuing/waiting period finishes when the customer is called forward to be served.
The method for calling customers has a great effect on the efficiency. It is crucial that the waiting customers are made aware of both the fact that they have been called and where they should go. This can be handled with various types of visual and audio support tools.
Correctly used, experience has shown that this can increase productivity and as a result, reduce waiting time by up to 30% in environments with short and standardized service requirements. If privacy is important for the customer, which is often the case in public and healthcare institutions, service providers should consider calling customers forward anonymously based on some other identification than name (typically a number).