Category Archives: Queue Management, Crowd Control, Queuing Strategies

Kill Showrooming with Kindness

showroomingBrick-and-mortar retail environments aren’t intended to act as mere showrooms. Yet this is exactly how many shoppers are treating them—testing the look and feel of products before going online to find the best price. Showrooming is a phenomenon that is not only frustrating but also harmful to brick-and-mortar retailer profits.

Experts recommend a number of strategies to combat showrooming, such as confronting price differentials head-on (price match guarantees are a common way of doing this). But another noteworthy strategy is to deliver a distinct customer service experience.

According to retail consultant, Chris Peterson, PhD, “If the in-store experience becomes personal, then consumers are most likely to vote for ‘Me-tailing,’ where their needs are addressed by a human being versus a computer screen.”

Focus on the Customer Experience

One area that can definitely sway a customer away from the store and onto the web is the waiting line. There’s nothing worse than having to wait so long and so often that the choice to leave the store and buy online is a no-brainer just to avoid standing in the queue. Retailers can accomplish several goals by getting rid of the waiting line in favor of virtual queuing.

1. Happier customers

create a pleasant envitornmentWhen you eliminate the wait, customers aren’t “stuck” in a line. They’re free to mingle about in a common area or able to shop, browse, or relax while they wait. Freedom leads to an improved customer experience because they’re making choices about how they spend their time instead of being forced to stay in one place.

2. A better bottom line

increase_salesVirtual queuing increases impulse sales. No customer needs to rush through their shopping to get in line before the “busy time” or to “beat the crowd.” They can secure their spot in line and still pick up a few last-minute items, no pressure.

3. Improved customer loyalty

maximize customer flowA better customer experience leads to greater customer loyalty. Customers clearly recall which stores have provided them with an easy, convenient, painless checkout experience and which store has wasted their time. If they can help it, they won’t be revisiting the latter anytime soon.

4. A mobile-ready approach

mobile readyVirtual queuing can put the waiting line in the palm of your customers’ hands. There is great comfort in that smartphone. When customers can claim (and change) their place in line—and be notified when their turn is near—all via their handheld device, retailers can find themselves a very satisfied customer.

It’s normal for traditional retailers to feel threatened by e-commerce, but online shopping is truly not the biggest danger. Customers go to brick-and-mortar stores because they want real-time service; they want to make purchases in that moment and not wait for them to ship and be delivered. This truth means that the opportunity to provide good service is always present. Retailers can rise to this challenge by improving all aspects of the customer experience.Virtual queuing, which eliminates the waiting line, is obviously just one of many strategies but it’s one that can put the “dread of waiting in line” out of the equation.

 

Find out how to improve the customer experience with virtual queuing. Contact a Lavi queue management expert today.

 

Building Loyalty with a Better Customer Experience in the Waiting Line

Through both mathematical correlations and actual company scores, Forrester researchers have proven that when your customers like the experience you deliver, they’re more likely to consider you for another purchase and recommend you to others. They’re also less likely to switch their business away to a competitor. This loyalty translates into more repeat purchases, more prospects influenced to buy through positive word of mouth, and less revenue lost to churn.

So it makes sense that businesses of all types are looking for ways to combat increasingly demanding and quick-to-sway customers. Improving the customer experience is a dynamic and multi-dimensional problem, but speaking from our experience in queue management, addressing the issue of the waiting/checkout line can be a big step in the right direction.

The waiting line can be improved in a number of ways, including:

1. Making the wait feel shorter

customer experienceWhen you’re entertained, busy, or distracted, time slips by virtually unnoticed. Create this perception in a queue to distract your customers – in a good way – by bringing in digital signage. Equipping your line with a digital media display provides opportunities to entertain and distract waiting customers with impactful video or still images. For an added boost, incorporate in-line merchandising alongside promotional digital media communications to boost impulse purchases.

customer experience

2. Making the wait actually shorter

Operating a multiple-line, multiple-server queue configuration? Switching to a single-line, multiple-server setup can dramatically reduce wait times. Bring in a call-forward electronic queuing system to your single-line queue to make the line even more efficient.

3. Getting rid of the waiting line all together

eliminate the waitEliminating the waiting line may seem counterintuitive but considering the digital world in which we live a virtual queue can actually calm your customers by giving them the freedom to shop, run a quick errand, make a phone call, or just sit and relax while they wait. With virtual queuing customers can check in to the waiting line via an in-store kiosk (or even online or via their smartphone), and wait for their turn to be called via in-store or text message alerts.

Regardless of how you accomplish the goal of improving your waiting line, the end result should be a better customer experience which will result in greater loyalty and a significant impact on the bottom line.

Talk to a Lavi queue management expert to plan your approach.

Why Queue Management Is Crucial for Retailers

The checkout line represents a critical turning point in any retail experience. It is the make-it-or-break-it point where sales are completed, or completely lost.

The Backlash of an Unmanaged Queue

long wait timesIt’s easy to assume that the tough part of retail is getting people in the door, offering a diverse selection of merchandise, and setting the right prices. But a transaction needs to go full circle—from intent to purchase—for both the retailer and the customer to benefit. And that means queue management must take precedence.

According to a recent retail study, 49 percent of customers will leave a store because of the mere presence of a waiting line, 81 percent will tell others about their bad experience, and 38 percent would consider never returning and shopping elsewhere because of lengthy or poorly managed lines.

Balking and reneging can also lead to significant financial implications for a retailer. Just a 5 percent loss of total in-store sales during a heavy shopping period, like Black Friday weekend or the weekend before Christmas, would convert to over $1 billion in lost sales.

Making the Checkout Line a Priority

One of the most influential pieces in shaping a customer’s opinion about the service they’ve received is the length of their checkout time. Retailers who closely monitor their checkout queues and make customer wait time a key performance indicator have an advantage which is realized through optimized labor costs and higher customer satisfaction.

queue managementQueue management technology enables retailers to monitor and study the changing variables of a checkout line in real time, from hour to hour, day to day, customer to customer. Getting straight facts about the ebbs and flows of a line, rather than making guesses about its progress and patterns, enables retailers to create a consistent checkout experience with shorter waits and transaction times. And, ultimately, this creates happier, satisfied customers.

Your queue impacts customer satisfaction, which impacts profitability and long-term business success. Find out how you can improve your checkout lines and the customer experience with queue management technologies, including call forward electronic queuing, cloud-based virtual queuing, centralized media management, and real time video analytics.

Discuss your queue management strategy with a Lavi expert. Request a sales call today.

How Queuing Technology Can Help Retailers Deliver Value to Empowered Customers

IBM’s 2011 Global Chief Marketing Officer Study highlighted several significant challenges faced by marketers today. Among them are understanding and delivering value to empowered customers and creating lasting relationships with those customers.

To succeed in meeting these challenges, it is imperative for retailers to look closely at the customer experience. How do customers define value? How can we earn their trust?

When evaluating a retailer’s ability to deliver value and build lasting relationships in a retail environment, there is always one glaring place to look: the checkout queue. A critical juncture where customers and sales are won or lost. Often the last impression made before a customer walks out the door. And often the first thing remembered when considering a return visit. The checkout line is a place where retailers stand to shine…or decline.

The Value of Queuing Technology

Queuing technology presents these opportunities and more:

eliminate the wait1. Eliminate the Wait

Across industries, businesses are choosing to address the tension around waiting lines by getting rid of them altogether. Virtual queuing technology lets customer wait without waiting in line, resulting in a better customer experience.

2. Fix Problems in Real Time

create a pleasant envitornment

Queue management technology enables retailers to monitor and study the changing variables of a checkout line in real time, from hour to hour, day to day, customer to customer. Getting straight facts about the ebbs and flows of a line, rather than making guesses about its progress and patterns, empowers retailers to create a consistent checkout experience with shorter waits and transaction times. And, ultimately, this creates happier, more satisfied customers.

mobile ready3. Be Mobile-Ready

Electronic queuing with text alerts lets customers check in and then continue to shop, run errands, or do whatever they need to do while they await a text to let them know it’s almost their turn for service.  Two-way text messaging, in turn, allows customers to remain in control of their experience by re-queuing themselves if they need more time.

4. Drive Impulse Sales

impulse salesToday’s queuing technology integrates powerful media messaging (entertaining or informative video, for example) to engage the customer in the queue. This approach can lead to as much as a 400 percent increase in impulse sales at checkout. Plus, perceived wait time can drop by up to 35 percent, as customers are engaged in the messaging and distracted by the time spent waiting.

5. Support the Omni-Channel Approach

virtual technology

Just as retailers are using omni-channel technology to create a better customer experience, in the checkout queue, we find technologies that can facilitate better service efficiency and higher quality service, without adding ongoing exponential costs.

Recognizing customers are empowered and in control, retailers must find ways to turn a common source of tension (the waiting line) into an experience that will deliver value and build trust. Queuing technology can provide the answers.  Let us help you plan your approach. Request a consultation.

Building the Omnichannel Experience with Digital Signage

digital signageDespite the power of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retailing is far from irrelevant. In fact, rather than splitting, the two are blending together into a seamless experience connected through mobile devices. Consumers navigate between store, website, and mobile environments to find and complete purchases with the expectation of a consistent experience across any channel.

Retailers are joining this “omnichannel” revolution by creating a triad of communications before, during, and after the in-store visit.

The Role of In-Store Digital Signage

Centralized management of in-store electronic signage, digital displays, and other in-store customer communications allows marketers to systematically deploy branded messages to align with corporate, regional, and/or store-level priorities. Centralized control ensures up-to-date messaging is deployed across regions, nationally, or at an individual store level.

Digital signage can connect the dots to create a meaningful and relevant customer experience across multiple channels.

For example, the same great deal or product featured on a store website can be called out via digital signage in store and likewise featured on the retailer’s mobile app or mobile website. A product or special introduction on one channel can instantly be made at the store level via centralized digital media signage.

What to Look for in a Digital Signage System

digital signageA centralized digital signage system offers a great many benefits to retailers, including dramatically improved impulse sales. By creating a consistency across channels, customers will receive accurate, up-to-date information about products and purchases.

As you explore your options for a system that works with your store, look for some of these key features:

  • Centralized control of in-store electronic signage and in-queue digital messaging.
  • Fully scalable messaging, from one display to hundreds across multiple stores and regions.
  • Unlimited playlists that distribute media to individual displays or customized groups based on regions or locations.
  • Scheduling options that allow for days or months of playlists to be created in advance and changed at a moment’s notice.

For any market, layout, or location, digital signage systems can complement your omnichannel strategy and help ensure a seamless customer experience.

Let us show you how digital in-store communications can enhance your business. Request a sales consultation.

2 Technologies to Streamline the Checkout Process and Decrease Wait Times

electronic queuingBusinesses can grow leaps and bounds above direct competitors and boast better prices or more diverse services, but if these offerings aren’t accompanied by efficient, high-quality customer service, their impact is negligible. In order to compete, retailers and service providers are seeking ways to connect with customers on more than just a superficial level in order to provide a better service experience. As with so many other business needs, technology can provide the answer.

When it comes to the waiting line, improving service is often as “simple” as making the line more efficient, and decreasing the real and perceived amount of time a customer is left to wait. This can be done in a number of ways, but there are two particular checkout technologies that are known to help streamline and cut wait times:

 

1. Call-Forward Electronic Queuing

A more efficient and pleasant waiting experience can be created by equipping a waiting line with a call forward electronic queuing system that keeps people informed, entertained, and distracted from the reality that they are indeed waiting.

Electronic queuing increases service efficiency by streamlining the way that service agents hail the next customer. Wireless remotes allow agents to alert customers that their turn has come, while audio cues and visual LCD displays offer additional information to keep people moving and aware of where they’re supposed to be. This sophisticated technology also allows service agents to redirect customers from one line or station to another for a more efficient service experience.

Not only does the call forward method decrease perceived wait times by as much as 40 percent, impulse sales can be boosted to as much as 400 percent when this electronic queuing is combined with in-line merchandising solutions.

virtual queuing2. Virtual Queuing

For customers whose dissatisfaction is strongly influenced by the appearance of a long line, the best line can often be no line at all.

Technology is allowing businesses to enhance the customer experience through virtual queuing. These systems allow customers to register for their “spot” in line via an in-store kiosk, or even to pre-schedule their place in line via the internet or their mobile device. They then receive an estimated wait time, and can go about their business as they spend their time “not waiting” in a physical line. Service agents can also notify customers via text message when their turn is near.

A virtual queue disperses waiting crowds, maximizes customer flow, increases service agent efficiency, eliminates that pesky waiting line, and ultimately makes customers happier by focusing on creating a pleasant waiting environment. The perception is that the queue is shorter, and the reality is that the queue can actually be shortened through this virtual line.

The Ultimate Prize: Customer Satisfaction

Catering to the happiness of customers is the key to retaining customers and earning new ones. Through queue management technologies, including call forward electronic queuing and virtual queuing, the waiting line experience can be made more efficient and satisfying.

Learn more about the best possible queuing solutions for your business – speak with a Lavi queue management expert.

Eliminate the Wait [Infographic]

Eliminate the Wait thumbnailHow Virtual Queuing Creates Happier Customers

Waiting lines have clearly marked their place as a common source of tension between businesses and customers. Studies and anecdotes alike prove that a poorly managed, arduous queue will annoy customers and hurt business. Half of customers say they will actively avoid a business in the future and one-third report they have abandoned the checkout line if they have been subjected to wait more than 5 minutes.

Across industries, businesses are choosing to address the tension around waiting lines by getting rid of them altogether. Virtual queuing technology lets customer wait without waiting in line. The result is a better customer experience.

Learn about the other advantages of virtual queuing and what to look for in virtual queuing technology with our latest infographic:

 

(click image to view full size)

Eliminate the Wait infographic

Breaking Down Big Data for Better Queue Management

Big DataBig data. It’s the buzzword to describe the immense volume, velocity, and variety of information that continues to build worldwide at a minimum annual rate of 59%.

Big data clearly presents an opportunity for those with the ability to decode and understand it. In the retail space, a 2011 McKinsey Global Institute report estimated that retailers using big data have the potential to increase their operating margins by more than 60%. On the other hand, it also threatens to bog down and leave behind those businesses lacking the means to handle and envision its value.

A traditional view of big data is the “3 Vs,” put forth by Gartner’s Doug Laney in a 2001 research report, referring to the volume, velocity, and variety of data. But there’s a more current view of big data: the “3 Ws”– What, So What, and Now What—a view that highlights the need for decisions to be made and actions to be taken from big data.

The business challenge ahead is to break down big data into actionable “chunks” from which to make decisions and improve the customer experience.

Queue Management and Big Data

When it comes to queue management, big data is no stranger. Retailers and other service providers have unprecedented opportunities to capture data relevant to the waiting and checkout experience.

real-time queue managementCurrent virtual queuing, electronic queuing, and video analytics systems enable businesses to track all aspects of the customer journey. From the moment of registration all the way through checkout, businesses are given valuable insight for optimizing customer throughput, increasing service efficiency, and enhancing direct customer communication, ultimately providing the customer with a better shopping experience. Today’s technology captures metrics such as average wait times, queue length, agent/cashier idle time, staffing allocations, customer arrivals, traffic patterns, etc.

The question is how can businesses transform all of this data to guide better decision making?

In our view, this challenge is met when data is collected and put to use in real time, rather than mere historical records.

Making data real-time useful.

The analytics provided by queuing technology is changing the game for managers by providing real-time alerts against a business’s unique performance indicators. Data is transformed into actionable intelligence to prevent problems before they happen. Here are a few examples of how real-time intelligence is being put to work in retail:

  • There is a sudden spike in the number of customers registering for service via a store’s virtual queuing kiosk. The store manager receives a real time alert and immediately opens up additional service stations.
  • The number of people waiting in line has reached a critical mass. Video analytics picks up on this and sends a real-time alert to the store manager to open up more register stations and to expand the length of the line.
  • A VIP customer has just arrived and checked in at the virtual queuing kiosk for service and immediately placed forward in line. The appropriate service agent is also alerted via his PC dashboard and can address the customer by name.
  • A store’s cashier is completing transactions at an unusually slow rate. The store manager is alerted and can explore the problem further.

As these examples illustrate, big data offers significant opportunities to improve performance and improve the customer experience.

How will your business put big data to use in real-time?  Let our queue management experts show you the way.

Mobilizing the Service Queue for a Better Customer Experience

mobile queuingAs businesses strive to more deeply connect with customers and provide a better service experience, it’s no secret that many are turning to mobile technology. Beyond the optimization of mobile websites or even mobile payment applications, mobile technology can improve the shopping experience across all touchpoints. In fact, many are calling mobile the defining trend of 2013 because of its ability to smooth the line between online and offline environments and facilitate a true omni-channel experience.

One area where mobile is making an impact in retail and service environments is in the waiting line. Here, virtual queuing technology is helping businesses connect with their customers through multiple channels – the web, mobile apps, text messaging, and kiosks and digital signage.

Our own QtracVR system uses the internet, mobile apps, or interactive kiosks to enable customers to register for in-store services, such as product returns or technical support. Customers are then free to shop or relax while waiting for service. The system updates customers with estimated wait times and promotional information via mobile phone text messages and in-store displays. When it is a customer’s turn for service, an agent uses a mobile app to text the customer with a message to come to the desired service area.

The benefits of “mobilizing” the service queue are many:

Disperse waiting crowds.

disperse waiting crowdsA frustrated crowd is undesirable for any service environment. With virtual queues enhanced by mobile technology, customers can stray from the point of service to do more shopping, run errands, or put their feet up while they wait.

Create a pleasant environment.

create a pleasant envitornment

Long lines can be cumbersome and annoying to stand in. Everyone is happier when they’re able to break away from the typical, tedious waiting line and receive better and faster service at the same time.

 

Maximize customer flow and service efficiency.

maximize customer flow

Virtual queuing facilitated by mobile improves customer flow and makes agents more efficient. Customers are notified via their mobile device or in-store display when a Service Agent clicks the service button on his PC or tablet-based dashboard. Customers can also reply via text message to be automatically “re-queued” if they aren’t quite ready to checkout.

 

Increase sales.

increase_salesA virtual queue offers more opportunities for customers to shop, which naturally increases impulse shopping. With mobile integration, businesses can also push out promotional messaging to the customer’s mobile device, further encouraging impulse purchases.

 

Decrease perceived wait times.

wait timesRemoving the physical waiting line and allowing customers to relax, continue shopping, or otherwise occupy their time can ease the mind and pass the time. Customers spend less time worrying about how long they’re waiting and more time getting things done or relaxing the time away.

 

It all adds up to a better customer experience.

As you strive to more deeply connect with customers and provide a more enjoyable service experience, mobile is bound to play a role. Using this defining trend alongside virtual queuing to eliminate a common source of tension can return dividends in the form of increased service efficiency and greater customer satisfaction.

 

Let us show you how virtual queuing combined with mobile can work for your business. Request a sales consultation.

Bringing the Omni-Channel Mindset to the Checkout Queue

virtual queue mobile checkinOmni-channel is the big idea in retail, motivated by a desire to allow customers to shop across channels—in store, online, mobile—at any time and any place. But it’s really not about the act of selling more. In fact, it’s not about the retailer at all. According to a new report from Motorola, real omni-channel strategy is about the customer. It’s about service.

“It’s about serving customers better, not about selling them harder.”

The true driver of an omni-channel approach is to enhance the level of service offered to customers. The result, of course, is higher sales. In making this possible, Motorola’s Retail Vision Survey found that over half of brick-and-mortar retailers see improvement in customer service as a primary driver of technology investment. Technology brings the omni-channel idea to fruition and as a result, retailers will boost revenues, and build stronger, more loyal customer relationships.

 

Applying this idea to the checkout line:

The checkout line is a common source of tension between businesses and customers. Avoiding this problem in the retail environment requires a commitment to better, more efficient service. Yet, in an era where we’re all being asked to do more with less, even while customer expectations rise, retailers are finding the answer in technology. Just as retailers are using omni-channel technology to create a better customer experience, in the checkout queue, we find technologies that can facilitate better service efficiency and higher quality service, without adding ongoing exponential costs.

One such technology is virtual queuing, which uses the internet, mobile apps, or interactive kiosks to enable customers to register for in-store services, such as product returns or technical support. The customer is then free to shop or relax while waiting for service. The system updates customers with estimated wait times and promotional information via mobile phone text messages and in-store displays. When it is a customer’s turn for service, an agent uses a mobile app to text the customer with a message to come to the desired service area.

Two other technologies designed to improve the customer service experience include:

  • In-queue analytics technology to provide data on operational efficiencies and quality of customer service in check-out lanes.
  • Technologies for in-queue call forwarding systems to streamline the checkout process and decrease wait times in linear queues.

The message to retailers is clear. Customer expectations are on the rise. Price and product selection only go so far to differentiate one retailer from another. Service is a real, sustainable differentiator that can be easily facilitated by technology.

If you’re looking for ways to drive service forward with affordable automation at the checkout line, let’s talk.