How to Improve Customer Service with a Queue Management System
Great customer service is a cornerstone for an organization’s long-term success. Whether someone is returning an item, getting a repair, or just having a question answered, customer service interactions are crucial to not only the moment of the interaction but also the future relationship between the customer and the business.
With 93 percent https://blog.hubspot.com/service/customer-acquisition-study of consumers saying they are more likely to become repeat customers if a business provides excellent customer service, you can’t afford to miss out on these key opportunities. And you always need to be thinking about how to improve customer service.
For better or worse, how customers wait for service impacts their experience. And queue management systems offer a path toward solidifying that experience. Here is a look at how virtual queuing can improve customer service.
Customers Corralled by Queues
Most people understand that sometimes, at some businesses, they might need to wait for service. The business’s responsibility is to make that wait as efficient as possible—for customers and for its own operations. The result is often a queue in which people either are standing in line or give their name or take a number and wait in a designated area for their turn to arrive.
For some organizations, a traditional queue setup is unavoidable—there’s really no way, for example, to not have people wait in line at a security checkpoint in an airport or sports arena. And many businesses do physical queues well: Lines are orderly, properly defined, and functional.
However, a long line or jammed waiting area can hurt the customer experience in several ways:
- A large crowd of people waiting can simply sap customers’ enthusiasm, if not stress them out. Some customers may see that crowd and decide the wait isn’t worth it—and leave before making a purchase or getting their service needs met.
- In a world of pandemics, physical queues don’t lend themselves to social distancing. Even with masks, vaccines, and the ebb and flow of the pandemic, there are still customers who are nervous about standing in close proximity to other people for a long time.
- A physical queue or waiting area takes up space that becomes difficult to get across. If a customer wants an item on the other side of a crowd, they may choose to go without rather than navigate traffic.
- Standing in line or sitting in a waiting area—and not being able to leave without losing your place in the queue—can feel like wasting time that’s being taken away by the business.
Although employees may be doing everything they can to help customers at the point of service, that may not matter if the wait was unpleasant. Customers might still come away thinking they weren’t treated well—a feeling they usually don’t forget.
The Basics of a Queue Management System
A virtual queue management system doesn’t eliminate the queue from the waiting equation, but it does radically change how that wait happens. Here are the basics of the process and the system:
The check-in process of virtual queuing is designed with customers in mind. Depending on how you set up your system, customers enter the system by:
- Scanning a QR code
- Entering basic information (e.g., name, phone number) into a touchscreen at a kiosk
- Sending a text
- Giving info to an employee, who then enters it
For virtual appointment scheduling, customers may be able to secure a place in the queue before even arriving at the business. This encourages walk-in business.
The Waiting Experience
Once in the system, customers receive updates and alerts on their smartphones about their status in the virtual queue. This waiting experience includes:
- Estimated wait times and notifications if that time unexpectedly increases or decreases
- A notification when the customer’s turn is close with a reminder to start heading toward the service counter
- The ability to answer basic questions, through intuitive pulldown menus, about what the customer needs
- The ability for brief two-way communication that allows staff to ask specific questions and give responses—and vice versa
- Promotional offers, such as coupons, upcoming sales, and loyalty programs, sent to customers’ smartphones while they wait
Because all this information is going to customers’ phones, they can receive wherever they want—in another part of the store, at a nearby coffee shop, outside while taking a walk, and so on. The best platforms also don’t require customers to download a special app; all the interactions arrive through texted, mobile-friendly links they can open on their phones.
Analytics and Reporting
Customers won’t see the data a queue management system produces, but that data will say so much about their waiting and shopping behavior.
Reports can reveal how long customers waited on average, when they were most likely to abandon their place in the queue, the busiest times of day and the week, how long the average service interaction, and more. By analyzing this data, businesses can make operational decisions that extend beyond queue management.
How to Improve Customer Service with an Improved Queue
Businesses considering how to improve customer service may focus on things such as hours of operation, staffing, employee training, return policies, service offerings, and other important strategies. Queues may not be an obvious area of improvement, but creating a better waiting experience goes a long way toward impressing customers. A virtual queue management system helps get you closer to that goal in many ways:
- Freedom of movement: When customers are not required to stay in a certain area, they gain control over their waits and can do what they want until their turn arrives.
- Informed employees: Through the system, employees learn what a customer needs and then can provide better, laser-focused service. Does a customer need help with a certain technology or with a tricky return that only a manager can approve? Does the customer not speak English? These unique needs can be determined in advance so that a specialist can be on hand when the customer reaches the front of the queue.
- Undistracted employees: Managing a physical queue or waiting area often pulls away employees—even just for a few minutes—from serving customers. A virtual queue mostly eliminates this need and allows employees to focus on the customer in front of them.
- Shorter wait times: The efficiency gained from a virtual queue management system—from employees not having to manage a physical queue to customers providing all pertinent info before reaching the front of the line—often results in shorter wait times. Of course, there are no guarantees because busy days and unusual circumstances can extend wait times no matter what you do. At least with virtual queuing, you have a system in place to handle whatever comes your way while emphasizing the customer experience.
- Shorter perceived wait times: Even if wait times don’t consistently decrease, customers may still feel like they aren’t waiting as long with virtual queuing. An old cliché states that a watched pot never boils—standing in a long line can be like staring at that pot, waiting for the water to boil. If customers are allowed to move about, the wait doesn’t seem so bad.
- Follow-up communication: Once customers enter the virtual queue management system, they remain in the system, even after they’ve concluded their transaction with your business. You can then follow up with them with surveys, requests for feedback, and simple messages thanking them for their patronage.
- Valuable offers: Customers love value, and the digital coupons and other offers you send through the system provide a perk they might not have otherwise received in a traditional queue. Offers can be tailored to the individual customer, and they can be triggered by certain events. For example, if the wait is becoming unexpectedly long, the system can send an apology along with a 10 percent off coupon for the customer’s next purchase.
- Real-time reporting: The data virtual queuing system produces important intelligence that helps with operational strategy. For example, if the system is telling you in real time that the queue is backing up, you can move employees to the service counter to help with the rush. And in the long term, the data can inform staffing, employee training, recruiting, hours of operation, and other decisions that eventually boost the customer experience.
Ultimately, all these benefits give customers the impression that you’re going the extra mile to provide good service. When customers feel attended to—even pampered—with good service, they buy more, become repeat customers, and tell the world how much you care.