The growth of online shopping is hard to dispute. However, there will always be a core of consumers who prefer to spend their money in stores. In fact, a recent survey from real estate services firm CBRE suggests that 90% of retail sales in the US still occur in physical stores. An in-store experience has a lot of advantages over buying online, from being able to try clothes on, to the ability to feel textures, flick pages, handle merchandise and critically a service element. So, the real world retail industry is far from dead. And for those who are looking to master the art of great customer service, retail queue management is key.
The UK retail market
In the UK we are lucky to have one of the most vibrant retail industries in the world. There are more than 290,000 retail outlets across the country selling everything from shoes to toys, and each one has the opportunity to deliver exceptional customer experience. UK consumers have become much more demanding, particularly given the convenience and time saving option of shopping online. For example, many are now likely to walk away from a purchase in-store if they are kept in a queue for 2-3 minutes and the queue is just not moving fast enough. The consequence is that there is real, tangible loss for businesses that don’t focus on service. According to Ombudsmen Services, 79% of people will avoid a brand in future if they have received poor service in the past. In 2016, poor customer service was estimated to cost UK businesses £37 billion.
Retail queue management
Queue management is not as simple as it sounds. Herding customers into a line and making them stay there isn’t going to have much of a positive impact on anyone’s experience. The alternative is to use queue management or appointment booking tools developed to manage, and analyse and improve the flow of visitors – this can generate significant benefits, from better allocation of resources, to optimised staffing and a deeper understanding of the customer journey. Queue management can be organised in a wide variety of ways, from physical boundaries, to digital scheduling, VIP areas or taking a ticket. The best kind of queue management is invisible – i.e. if your retail queue management system is working really well then you won’t have a queue at all.
The benefits of retail queue management
There are many parts of the business where retail queue management systems can have a big impact:
Customer satisfaction: Queues that are properly managed ensure that customers make it to the till with their purchase and don’t go away dissatisfied. Given the importance of customer service to the retail industry, ensuring the queuing experience doesn’t negatively impact how a customer feels about a brand is crucial.
Creating a strong customer experience: Retail queue management won’t just help to avoid a negative customer view, it can also be useful in generating positive experiences too. Customers feel as if the store has really taken the time to understand their needs, that someone cares about how long it takes to get to the till and that they are valued by the brand. Customers left in a long line to wait as long as they have to wait will go away with all the opposite set of feelings.
Cost: Retail queue management is a genuine investment but it can also be a cost saving exercise. Stores using it avoid the loss of potential customers who just won’t wait and so leave the store without making the purchase. Plus, the information that can be gathered from the right kind of management system informs better resource allocation and can ensure that staffing costs rise and fall logically in line with customer number surges.
Workforce planning: Working with a retail queue management system provides invaluable data about customer numbers and peak times, all of which can be fed back into staffing schedules to make them more efficient and better suited to the needs of the individual store.
Aesthetics: At any time of year, a long queue is a sign of poor store management. Some customers might be a little more patient during seasonal peaks or sale times but if your shop floor is crowded with people trying to get to a till then this creates a chaotic atmosphere in which other customers may not want to shop. Aesthetically, short queues and a well defined queue management system will create a much better impression.
Saving customers time: Customers really value their time – and they are more likely to return to stores that demonstrate an appreciation of this. If good customer service is about problem solving for the people who shop with you, then reducing the amount of time they spend at the till has to be a top priority. at the top of the list.
Where retail queue management systems can have an impact on the day-to-day operations of the business
No long lines – proper queue management means your customers can access the services you’re offering as and when required without having to wait around to do so.
Reduced customer complaints – retail queue management keeps customers informed and provides a framework for a queuing experience. Even if you can’t completely eliminate the queues, you are at least keeping people informed, which makes waiting times feel shorter.
A more productive workforce – staff rarely like to deal with frustrated customers in queues and it’s often a waste of resources. You can make better use of your team by using a queue management system and freeing them up for other, more productive tasks instead.
Better business image – no one is going to walk away impressed if they’ve queued for a long time to get to a till.
Gathering essential data – you’ll be able to understand what is driving in-store sales, target poor performing hours of the day times in order to improve, understand where the best options for conversion lie and get perspective on the success of your customer service offering.
Case study: Liverpool Football Club (Fenway Sports Group)
Liverpool FC Club shop is a great example of how retail queue management can improve business efficiency as well as customer experience. Data on previous issues within the Club’s megastore resulted in them club installing 28 tills, up from the previous five, to help manage the queues during match days.. This was introduced alongside a separate VIP area and another six separate till points for getting shirts embossed.
The café in the store is multifunctional – a coffee shop on quieter days and a convertible space for an extra 10 till points when required. The example of Liverpool FC shows just how creative you can be with retail queue management to tailor it, both to the needs of the space, and also the customers.
Retail queue management can be revolutionary for a store – and is an essential component of successfully competing with online brands, as well as other bricks and mortar businesses. It is easy to implement, simple to use and can make a huge difference to key business outcomes, as well as overall customer satisfaction.
If you need help with your retail queue management system or have any questions at all, just get in touch with us!