Waiting time is defined as the time in which a person has to wait to acquire a specific service or action after placing a request for it. It is the time interval that is needed actually to make the request occur.
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Meaning of waiting time
The word waiting time is used loosely in the context of several industries like education, healthcare, and business. In operations, it is the time that is needed between the processes. In healthcare, it is considered as the time interval when a patient has to wait for the doctor or any related services.
In operations management, it is the period in which equipment cannot work or is not functional because of maintenance, technical failure, power failure, absence of adequate labor or non-availability of raw materials. In business, it is the time when the customer has to wait for a specific product or service.
Every sector aims to minimize the waiting time to provide a service or action as soon as possible. Customer behavior generally depends on the waiting time for a specific function. For example, if a family has gone to a restaurant for dinner and on arrival, they understand that the minimum waiting time at that place is more than one hour, then the customer might decide to go to another place because he does not want to wait for such a long time.
At times it is the waiting time that tells us how important that process is and how fast the service request will be processed and is it worth waiting for it.
Strategies to minimize the customer’s waiting time
Customers do not like waiting and that too for a long time. A business entity tries to minimize this waiting time because it has a direct impact on customer engagement. It is the responsibility of a manger to ensure that employees can assist customers by making them feel valued and appreciated.
Delivering exceptional services to reduce the waiting time is one sure way to earn the loyalty of a customer. The strategies to minimize the customer’s waiting time are as follows-
1. Set clear expectations
It is a common courtesy to give the customers a heads-up in case the wait is going to prove lengthy. Set clear expectations of the wait so that the customer is psychologically prepared for it. The customer can use this time for any other activity, for instance, they can wait in the waiting room and go through their emails and SMS, go out to the cafeteria and have something to eat or drink or go out for a walk.
It is a fact that when you keep the customers in the loop, they can utilize their valuable time in something constructive and the waiting time now does not look a dreaded affair any longer.
2. Communicate with the customer if there is a delay
Remember time is money and if there is a delay in your services then it is imperative to communicate with the customer immediately so that his time is not wasted in unnecessary delays.
Let them know the reason and apologize for the inconvenience if you are looking for strategies to minimize the waiting time. The customers are intelligent enough to appreciate your honesty and respect you for the same.
3. Employee training
Employees should be given proper training to handle customers effectually. A well-trained employee will try different approaches to minimize the waiting time of a customer. He will be equipped with the necessary training to communicate information and resolve issues so that the customer will not have to waste valuable time waiting for a specific product, action or service.
It is a fact that a trained employee can change the negative experience of the customer to positive through his approach because he has been trained to handle difficult situations with ease.
4. Create a pleasant waiting area:
Waiting is not an enjoyable activity and is never by choice. A customer is bound to feel frustrated and angry if he has to wait for a specific service or product. Make sure to create a pleasant waiting area that has a great ambiance if you are looking for strategies to minimize the waiting time of a customer. It is the responsibility of the management to hire a team that will look after the waiting area and keep it clean and well-maintained throughout the day.
An important thing to remember is to keep the washrooms equally clean because it is seen that in most cases, employees do not pay as much attention to the restroom as to the waiting area. Customers should have a comfortable seat to sit and wait.
Keep some magazines handy so that they are not bored out of their minds. The employees are generally aware of the number of people who are going to wait in their waiting room at any given time. Make sure that the place can accommodate that number comfortably and the customers do not feel agitated and claustrophobic in there.
5. Coordinate the interactions of customers and employees
An essential strategy of minimizing the waiting time of customers is by appointing service leaders who will act as coordinating points for viable communications with the customer. It is easy to reduce the perceived waiting time by greeting the customer directly and learning the actual purpose of his visit. It then becomes easy for the service leader to direct the customer to the appropriate counter so that it is possible to meet his requirements without delay.
The initial greetings help to make the customer comfortable and feel valued. This results in an easy camaraderie between the employee and the customer and in such a scenario if the customer has to wait for a few minutes, the waiting period does not seem annoying to him. For example, when a customer visits a bank, then an employee will direct you to the right counter so that you have to face minimum waiting time.
Similarly, when you visit a boutique or a retail outlet, the employees will record your name and direct you to the part of the store that is relevant to your requirements. This is one of the common strategies nowadays that is being adopted by almost every organization to time the waiting time of the customers
6. Keep it moving
The employees must keep moving if they are looking for a strategy to minimize the waiting time of a customer. By moving, it means that they work actively so that the customers do not have to wait and instead they can keep on moving towards the relevant counter.
There should be urgency in their approach that should reassure the customers that the employees are willing to do their best so that they do not have to wait for any product or service unnecessarily. There are several instances when employees keep on interacting amongst themselves without bothering to help the customers.
Such scenarios have a significant impact on the mindset of a customer as the waiting period looks too much to him, and at the end of the day, the wait might not feel worthwhile to him. An important strategy to minimize the waiting time is to put the customers need at the forefront and help them in achieving their targets
7. Engage the customers
If a customer is waiting in a line or a queue, then the perceived waiting time looks vast to him. Engage in an activity while the customer is waiting by installing televisions and keep magazines at strategic positions.
Make sure that there are enough signs to direct the customer to the necessary stop and that there are employees present to guide then in case anyone needs help. This is an essential strategy that ensures customers have something to do and are engaged throughout the time and they do not feel as if their time is being wasted unnecessarily.
8. Be quick
Make sure that the interaction time of the customer and the employee is reduced to a minimum. This does not mean that you start rushing the customer through the queue without listening properly to his requirements.
Yes, the employees must be fast but they must be patient in their dealings and show warmth and their friendly nature during the interaction. Be sympathetic as well as helpful and quick if you are looking for ways to minimize the waiting time of a customer.
9. Service recovery
The customers should not have to wait, but it is a fact that they have to deal with waiting time again and again at some point or other during the day. The employees must be equipped for service recovery so that they can make things right for a customer. This is a good time for the employees to show that hey care and offer heartfelt apologies for any inconvenience.
Several organizations have tried other options like writing off a part of the bill to compensate the customer for such a long waiting time. This shows a willingness on the part of the management to provide exemplary services and ensure that the customer remembers this gesture
10. Identify chokepoints
A business entity can implement the best of strategies, but there is always a possibility of clogging that will ultimately lead to waiting time for the customer. Identify choke points and the impact on the customer.
This will provide the management with the relevant information that can help to minimize the waiting time for a customer
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