Reduce waiting times and improve customer experience

It is no secret that competition among brick-and-mortar retailers is at an all-time high. Even after a relatively busy Christmas period, the high street has seen a number of store closures, with M&S and House of Fraser among the major names to announce swathes of their portfolios shutting their doors.

With this in mind, retailers need to give each customer that comes through the door every reason to make purchases and return in the future. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy in shopping around for a higher quality product, cheaper prices or better in-store experience. During busy periods, such as Christmas and January sales, retailers must be able to offer a store layout that keeps customers moving and, most importantly, without an extended wait at the tills.

Reduce waiting times

Research conducted by Tensatorâ showed that, despite British people’s reputation for being polite in a queue, a number of frustrations risk leaving shoppers seeing red. Some 92% of shoppers listed queue jumping as their major frustrations and, although most will not confront the individual directly, these situations pose a risk of social norms breaking down.

Perhaps more importantly for retailers, the same study showed that the maximum amount of time most customers were willing to wait in a queue was six minutes. Although major names are testing the possibility of a checkout-free store, with Amazon’s Go the highest profile example, the risk of walkaways is high, particularly during the busiest periods.

Implementing Electronic Queueing systems is one method retailers can invest to reduce customer waiting times and improve the overall shopping experience. A single line queue has been proven to be the fastest and fairest way to process customers at the till as they are served in the order they arrive.

Utilising call forward technology has been shown to reduce waiting times by up to 30 per cent, helping to exceed customer expectations and ensure that more purchases are converted. Call forward systems are also vital to help retailers utilise staff in the most efficient way. By ensuring that service positions are constantly filled, and customers guided correctly, retailers can plan their resources more efficiently and ensure staffing levels are maintained, even during the busiest periods.

Provide accessible for all

With growing prominence of events such as Black Friday, not to mention the busy Christmas period, UK retailers are having to raise their game when it comes to dealing with crowds of people.

Retailers are investing significant amounts of money on improving store layouts in the long term, so spending more time planning the location of promotional offers to prevent bottlenecks and restricted access for wheelchair users is vital.

The scenes at previous Black Friday sales, complete with shoppers competing with each other to get their hands on the latest reduced product will also cause concern for brick and mortar stores. For the vast majority of shoppers, these scenes could deter them from venturing onto the high street, choosing to browse the sales online instead.

For wheelchair users, there is a huge consideration about where to shop. The Paralympics in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016 went a long way to increasing awareness of what it means to have a disability and this legacy has meant that greater efforts have been invested in ensuring that public spaces are accessible for all.

Even in a busy store, retailers must now make adjustments to guarantee that every customer can access the same level of service. With an increase in dedicated disabled parking spaces, wheelchair accessible trolleys, as well as lifts and ramps, this thinking is clearly becoming a central part of store planning.

Making these changes will lead to a safer and more efficient store for all. By using a low-profile base on queue barriers which enable wheels to pass over without obstruction, for example, means that customers with pushchairs or luggage, as well as wheelchair users, can move easily through queuing areas and speed-up the overall queuing process.

Increase staff numbers

While it may seem obvious, having a few extra well-trained staff on the shop floor is crucial to ensure that customers perceive that the store is being managed effectively. As well as assisting with improving checkout times, more staff can help prevent bottlenecks and blocked aisles, and enhance the level of customer service.

It is also important that stores have processes in place to manage the flow of staff between the shop floor and checkouts according to demand and customer levels. Taking more time to ensure procedures are in place ahead of planned busy spells will result in customers feeling valued, spend more and return to the store in the future.

Joanne Turner from people management specialist, Tenastor.

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