The success of any business depends on how efficiently it can attend to its customers and provide them goods and services. Keeping customers waiting in long queues only makes them impatient, and you’re likely to lose business to another establishment that can manage its customers better. With efficient management of queues, you can direct your managers and employees to work quickly and efficiently, thus reducing cost and improving profitability.
Long queues might mean more customers, and this can translate to higher profits and revenues for your business. Customers, however, aren’t always happy to stand in line. This is the reason retail establishments have multiple checkout counters. With more employees to man the checkout counters, you can cater to more customers. The downfall is that more employees increases your labor cost. Managing queues involves adjusting your customer service activities to get a balance. Long queues discourage customers, but if they see that the queue is moving quickly, they are likely to be more patient.
Manage Demand Fluctuations
Customer footfalls in your establishment are most likely never constant. There may be some days of the week or month that you see more customer traffic, while at other times, you’ll see fewer customers. On the days when there are more customers, your customer service personnel may not be able to process customer requests quickly enough, and this can result in long queues. You could study your customer arrival patterns and work out solutions of how to manage the queues. For example, during the holiday seasons, you’re likely to have more shoppers coming in, so you need to figure out when you need to bring in additional help and when you should reduce your staff.
Prioritize for Efficiency
Companies must manage queues to increase efficiency. Many establishments work with the first-come, first-served rule, but this might not always be a practical approach. For example, in a convenience store, a customer who has just a few items might not want to wait behind another who’s shopping for a week’s worth of groceries. You might want to have a separate counter for customers with a limited number of items. The same is true for an in-house help desk operation. Prioritize requests for help so you can respond either by solving the issue immediately or letting the customer know when you can work on it. This way, a customer with an easily-solved problem need not wait behind one with a difficult fix. For a difficult problem, users can make other arrangements while they wait for solutions.
Manage Customer Experience
Customers waiting in queues can get disgruntled with the wait and might not want to come back again. Keep them busy while they wait in line. Some retail establishments have digital displays that show advertisements, news or anything that might interest customers. You also can place smaller items along the checkout aisle, which helps in more ways than one. Customers can browse while they wait, and you might even make extra sales if they see and pick up something they like. You also can offer customers buzzing pagers or token numbers that alert them when they’re up next. This frees them from waiting in queues altogether and allows them to do something else with their time.
Ensure Good Customer Service
If you want customers to come back, give them good service, which involves treating customers well when they are in line. If your employees receive customers with a smile and a helpful attitude, your customers might think waiting in line isn’t such a waste of their time. Good service also encourages your customers to talk about their experience to family and friends, which can translate to more business for you. Train your employees to be efficient so they service customers as fast as possible. Also, to improve efficiency, give your employees the necessary equipment to do their jobs, and encourage their feedback about ways to improve efficiency.
- Management Study Guide: Waiting Line (Queue) Management
- Gaebler.com: Managing Queues in the Service Industry
- Sport and Leisure Operations Management; Una McMahon-Beattie and Ian Yeoman
- Slate: What You Hate Most About Waiting In Line
- TechRepublic: Queue To Zero: Making Sure the Support Queue Stays Manageable