Retail TouchPoints: How Can Retailers Make Checkout Waits More Bearable?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.
Studies suggest that customer perception of product and service quality is the single best predictor of market share. As such, improving the perception of service quality is vitally important. Many retailers need look no further than the waiting line, where an otherwise positive shopping visit can be destroyed, to discover a place where the customer experience can be strengthened or even salvaged.
Based on David Maister’s widely quoted work on the psychology of waiting lines, here are six ways to improve the perception of service quality when it comes to the waiting line experience:
- Occupy their time: Keeping customers’ minds or hands busy prevents them from focusing on the passage of time, and makes the time waiting seem to pass more quickly. Two of the quickest solutions to occupying time: digital signage/video and in-line merchandising. Running promotional stills, commercials, or a TV show on strategically-placed digital screens can effectively capture and occupy attention.
- Get them started: The ability to fill out paperwork while in line, to unload the cart while another person is being served — any task that initiates a customer’s transaction before the actual exchange begins — can be effective in getting people started.
- Reduce the anxiety: Retailers opting for a single-line queue with multiple servers shorten both the actual and perceived waits. Knowing there is only one option for waiting, that every customer is in it together, and that you’re not missing out on an expedited process elsewhere helps customers relax and wait more happily. A service agent’s acknowledgement that a customer is present can also go a long way toward alleviating a customer’s anxiety about waiting.
- Make the wait certain: Eliminating this unknown reduces customer anxiety. A line might look long, but if they’re being promised that the wait is only two minutes, the long line is then acceptable. The key, of course, is to be as accurate as possible about the estimated wait time, preferably overestimating. Frustrations will only increase if the wait time exceeds the expected wait.
- Explain the wait: Simply telling customers that a register isn’t working or explaining whatever the hold-up may be can make them more understanding of the wait they might have to endure
- Make it equitable: This first-come, first-served method gives everyone in line a similar wait — or at least a bearable one — because it is an equitable wait.
Waiting is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to actually be loathsome.
What do you think are some the best ways to improve the perception of service around waits at checkout lines? Is changing perception enough in many cases?