Why Customer Flow Management Is Vital to Your Business
What’s the most challenging part of your day as a business owner? If you work in any retail or service industry, chances are you’re thinking of rush hour.
That’s a tough time of day for your customers, too. Any situation that results in big crowds, long lines, and unpredictable service times can be challenging for anyone involved. Yet avoiding crowds isn’t always possible—especially if you’re dealing with high demand or unexpectedly low staff.
Fortunately, there’s a better way. Investing in thoughtful customer flow management techniques can alleviate many common business struggles and even add time back into your team members’ days.
What Is Customer Flow Management?
First things first: What is customer flow?
Customer flow refers to the journey your customers take while engaging with your business. This flow starts the moment a customer realizes they need your services and follows your customer through arriving at your location, preparing for service, and interacting with your staff.
This sense of flow can go extremely well; picture a perfectly tuned Swiss watch or a fast-moving yet serene river.
Of course, customer flow can also go poorly, which is when long lines and crowded lobbies start to crop up.
Good customer flow doesn’t happen by accident. It requires thoughtful design, powerful tools, serious data analysis, and awareness of your business’s supply and demand.
Enter customer flow management.
Customer flow management refers to the techniques and strategies you use to guide customers through your business. This can involve anything from training your staff to direct people, installing signage in your business, and even using technology to provide helpful resources and check-in options to your customers before they arrive.
Today’s tech-based customer flow management systems add several options to your tool kit, including:
- Queue management
- Digital signage
- Appointment scheduling
- Mobile check-in
- Staff optimization
It may look like a lot, but we have good news for you: Implementing these practices can do more than just reduce wait times and improve customer satisfaction. Customer flow management can be great for your business itself too.
Why Is Customer Flow Management Important to Businesses?
Poor customer flow management reduces customer return rates, grates on staff, and tanks a business’s reputation.
On the flip side, stellar customer flow management allows you to:
- Make running your business more pleasant.
- Tailor your products and services to actual customer needs.
- Create and cultivate repeat customers.
- Keep your lobby or retail space calm and safe.
- Receive more great customer reviews.
In short, customer flow management is critical for your business’s success—especially today.
Today’s customer desires more instant gratification and control over their experiences than ever before. Once upon a time, waiting an entire afternoon at the DMV seemed inevitable. Now, it’s something we avoid at all costs. This shift has sparked something of a retail evolution: Businesses that wish to succeed design customer flow systems with an absolute minimum of customer friction—or perceived friction.
Giving your customers control over aspects of their experience, things to do while waiting, or having your customers “stand” in a virtual queue (where the wait is out of sight and, therefore, out of mind) can all vastly improve customer wait experiences—even if the wait length itself doesn’t change.
This makes your opportunity as a business owner clear:
- Want your customers to leave your establishment satisfied?
- Want your staff to breathe easy while getting more done?
- Want to level up the feel of your physical space?
- Want to have the data you need to improve your company’s offerings?
Clever customer flow management is the answer. These techniques put you back in control of the way your customers engage with and perceive your business.
But what are those techniques? Next, we’ll discuss specific ways to see customer flow management benefits for your business.
Seven Proven and Practical Ways to Improve Customer Flow Management
Consider implementing these customer flow management best practices:
1. Notice your bottlenecks.
As you go about your day-to-day, keep an eye out for the times crowds cluster in your lobby. Ask your staff if they’ve noticed any common customer frustrations over time. Steel yourself, and review any negative comments you’ve received. Identifying potential issues is the first step toward resolving them.
2. Minimize physical queues.
For most businesses, lengthy lines are an excellent place to start. Shifting your in-person queue to a virtual one will reduce crowds, alleviate pressure on your staff, allow you to optimize your workday better, and unlock helpful customer data.
3. Use today’s tech.
Pen-and-paper appointment scheduling systems have had their moment. The same goes for waiting number systems. Today, you have options such as interactive appointment scheduling software, virtual queuing, self-service kiosks, and digital or SMS notification systems. Making the switch to online operations gives your customers control over their journey and reduces the potential for miscommunication.
4. Train your staff.
Any new paradigm shift requires support. Your staff members will need time to adapt to your new customer flow management strategies. Luckily, today’s top virtual queues and appointment scheduling systems are built to be intuitive. Once your staff members see how much time and mental bandwidth they save with your new tools, they’ll be fully on board.
5. Provide clear cues.
Update your business’s calls to action to feature online check-in links. Post QR codes to start onboarding processes or join virtual queues around your physical office. While your staff may need to provide gentle support to the less tech-savvy in your community, most of your customers will pick up on these cues on their own, freeing up your staff members to focus on providing great value.
6. Prioritize customer headspace.
Make your customers feel confident, safe, and in charge. Give them things to do while queuing, be transparent—and accurate!—regarding wait times, encourage self-service, and provide options. The more your customers feel engaged and in control, the happier they will be.
7. Adapt as needed.
Your customer flow management system will keep track of invaluable data, including your busiest hours, best-selling products or services, and even select customer demographics. You can also set up your system to allow customers to provide in-the-moment feedback. Analyze this data as you get it, and tweak your customer flow systems accordingly.
Though this to-do list can seem hefty, the results for your business will be worth it.
Ready to Realize What Exceptional Customer Flow Management Can Do for You?
Opting for online or virtual customer flow systems can connect you with incredible benefits. Among those benefits are business-boosting goals you’ve likely had on your wish list for a while, including:
- Higher customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Increased revenue and sales
- Improved brand reputation and word-of-mouth marketing
- Reduced stress and workload for employees
- Improved productivity and efficiency
Even better: Achieving these benefits doesn’t have to be complicated. With Qtrac’s intuitive and powerful virtual queuing management, you can set up new customer flow systems without expending too much effort. In addition, our white-glove approach to service means the Qtrac team will always be ready to help you implement, tweak, and update your systems for optimal results.
Schedule a meeting with our team if you want to learn more about Qtrac’s virtual queuing solutions. In the meantime, if you’re curious about further benefits that customer flow management provides, check out our resource, Why Virtually Queued Customers Buy More.