Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Customer Wait Times -- How Long is Too Long?

If you’re like me, you hate to wait in lines at the store, or too long for service at a restaurant. These long check out lines, or not enough employees available to answer your questions, it seems like we as customers are often getting the short end of the stick. What impact does that have on a business – when customers are asked to wait? Will a long wait time even cost you business? And if so, how long is too long to wait? We talked about this and more in today's Marketing News Radio broadcast.

On the program today to look into this issue of how long customers expect to wait for service was Tom Krause – he’s the director of strategic consulting for Martiz Research Retail Group. His team just completed a study of more than 1400 American consumers to see what their expectations and limits are when it comes to waiting around.

I'll admit I was surprised by what I heard. For the most part, Americans aren't that bothered by having to wait in lines. Perhaps we accept it as part of the cost of doing business someplace. And, to our credit, we are rather forgiving when wait times are too long if the employee is courteous, genuinely sorry for the inconvenience, and smiles.

But there is a dark side to an extended wait time. Fully 80% of the respondants walked out of a restaurant, 40% left a bank, and 50% walked out of a convenience store because the wait was too long. And for those who walked out -- 30% of them never went back.

Sure, long waits are inevitable. An unexpected rush of customers can easily overwhelm a manager's best attempts at staffing. Krause offered up a list of NO COST things an employee can do to minimize negative impacts of long wait times and even some suggestions for what retailers might do this holiday season to preclude frustrations before they happen.

Experts from Maritz Research are regular guests on this show and today was no exception to the interesting topics and practical value they bring. Be sure to check the show archives for other radio programs with Martiz covering customer experience and customer engagement practices.

-- David Kinard, PCM

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