One universal truth unites customers of all types, ethnic groups, income levels and demographic groups. They all hate to wait! That makes it all the more amazing that retailers continue to routinely subject their customers to painful lines at the register. It’s a sure way to turn a pleasant shopping experience into a breeding ground for discontent.
Throw into the mix a transactional glitch like that recently suffered by Target and checkout lines become the front line for bad will and lost business. In one fell swoop, years of brand building and millions of advertising dollars can be undermined. Merchants that meticulously map out acquisition and loyalty programs are effectively turning to their customers and saying, “We do not respect you enough to take your money efficiently.”
Why do retailers that spend dollars and countless hours on getting customers through their doors ignore the last and most crucial minutes of the in-store experience? Traditionally, the checkout process has been subjected to a delicate balance between staffing and ‘acceptable waiting times.’ The new reality presented by social media-enabled consumers means that ‘acceptable waiting times’ is a contradiction in terms.
In truth, checkout lines make little sense and present a real risk to a merchant’s core business, potentially harming their reputation and revenue. This can be avoided—which is why QLess was born. I was waiting in line at Knott’s Berry Farm, thinking to myself that there had to be a better way. By the time I reached the front, I had come up with a plan to eliminate lines. Today, effective wait-management solutions, like QLess, are being used by customer-centric retailers to alleviate lines.
With QLess, mobile wait technology, customers can join lines virtually by using their smart device, the web or an in-store kiosk and are alerted via text message when the register operator is ready to serve them. This allows them to continue shopping and avoid wasting time waiting in a physical checkout line. Less time spent waiting in line not only increases customer satisfaction, but it also alleviates the pressure on store clerks. Furthermore, this approach allows the retailer to better respond to low and high traffic patterns within their stores.
An investment in wait-management technology can also pay dividends in other areas. Metrics gathered through a wait-management system can be used to analyze and better plan store staffing, accounting for low and high store-traffic hours. The message-based alerts that are delivered directly to the customer’s smart device can also contain selling messages to open up a new channel for promotions. Best of all, these solutions are sophisticated and based on field-proven technology that is robust and virtually immune from glitches.
The process of addressing long lines in today’s mobile-driven world is straightforward. First, set goals for improving wait times. These targets can be built into your wait-management system, allowing you to track progress. Next, select a wait-management solution that offers enterprise-strength features that will provide visibility into wait times across the organization and identify anomalies.
A good retail-focused wait-management solution will equip merchants with training resources and suggestions for more efficient scheduling of floor teams. This will avoid confusion in the early days of a new system. Customers will also have clear signage explaining how to avoid waiting in line. Similar wait-management systems have been proven in traditionally line-heavy environments like DMVs. Additionally; organizations that have not traditionally been associated with great customer service have seen satisfaction ratings soar after deploying customer-centric wait-management solutions.
Wait-management solutions that combine clear goals, a customer-centric strategy, and a scalable technology can transform the customer experience at checkout. In fact, adopting this technology is quite possibly the most direct track a retailer can take to improving the in-store experience, customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Alex Bäcker is CEO, founder and inventor of QLess. He also currently serves on the board of advisors for the California Institute of Technology Information Sciences and Technology.