Customer Experience

The waiting game: Keep your customers entertained

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

From the first moment you place your customers on hold, make them queue for service or keep them waiting for a reply, you redefine your importance to them. Want to keep their loyalty? Amuse them or lose them.

“Your call is important to us…”

And a few minutes later. “Your call is important to us….”

If you’re in a service industry, it’s inevitable that at some stage you’ll have to keep a customer waiting. You can’t work 24/7 or be in two places at once.  The way you handle it can be the difference between keeping and losing your customers.

Man looking at watch

Wait for it…

Having to wait is boring. You know what it’s like. You worry that they won’t get to your query before you have to leave for another appointment. Perhaps you’ve parked your car somewhere expecting a quick drop in, and now you’re worrying that you will get a parking ticket.

Every little nagging worry makes time pass more slowly, and what might actually takes only 10 minutes feels to customers like 40.

The danger to your business

All the experts tell us that the longer the actual (or perceived) waiting time, the less impressed people are with your customer service.

While they’re waiting, they are looking around for something to do. Social media beckons, and the smart placement of an ad from a competitor can make them reconsider their purchases. All of a sudden, your customer is off in search of better (and faster) service from your competitors.

Make time fly

Smart businesses know that if you occupy a customer’s time, the waiting period passes quickly, so the solution is to give them something to do while they wait.

Here’s what the restaurant industry has come up with: How about a “queue guy” whose job it is to amuse and entertain the people in the queue?  Or sending customers off to the pub for a drink while they wait? A quick phone call tells them when their seats have become available, and the customers are back in and happy to boot. 

Outside of hospitality, Nintendo made the line a place of fun by turning it into a game. An employee was given the job of speaking with the people in the queue and asking them random product-related questions. If they answered correctly, they moved to the top of the queue.

Because people were engaged with the game, no one minded dropping back a place in the line, and time passed quickly.

So what to do?

If you own a café, give people food to sample, or create a reward card that is stamped every time they have to wait longer than 15 minutes.  Run a giveaway that can only be entered by the people in line – simply reward them for their patience.

One of the simplest but most effective solutions is to offer free Wi-Fi. Almost everyone carries a smart phone or device these days. This simple solution is a lifesaver, especially for anyone who has a child waiting with them. If they can access a game like Happy Street, their child can be kept occupied for ages.

Of course, it gives adults access to their emails and social media, too. With the right router and provider, many businesses will also be able to provide free Wi-Fi for their customers using Telstra Wi-Fi.

If you have to keep your customers waiting, add some fun to the experience.  And please, if you need to keep them on hold, at least play some decent music. If you give your customers something to do other than watch the clock, they may not mind minor interruptions to your service.

Looking for alternative ways to bring people through the door?

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