How long is too long? 4 ways to win the waiting game.
How long is too long to make a customer wait?
Are they on the phone, in person, or online? For each situation, you should have a strategy for how responsive you aim to be.
Because people hate to wait. Moms really, really hate to wait. Just like "dog years," a one-minute wait feels about seven times as long to a mom. Why? Because her wait is very often spent with a child in tow, accompanied by a soundtrack that goes something like this: "Howmuchlongermom? CanIpleasegetacupcake? GivemeyourphonesoIcanplayDoodleJump. Ihavetopee. Myarmitchesfromwaiting. Howmuchlongermomthisistakingforever."
The best illustration of how excruciating this waiting with child exercise can be comes from the beloved blogger Catherine Newman who wrote a post about being on a delayed flight with both her small kids in tow. She was especially annoyed by the single passengers who, upon hearing the announcement of another hour delay, exhaled grumpily, leading to Newman's brilliant mental retort: "Oh, sorry you have to spend another hour sitting alone reading your novel while I began my millionth round of tic-tac-toe."
But waits do happen. And the best advice for winning at the waiting game with moms can be summed up in four directives:
#1 Staff up
#2 Return control
#3 Set expectations
#4 Provide value
Here's how it looks in practice:
Scenario 1: Customer on hold
You've got a mom on hold waiting to speak to someone at your company. How long can you leave her there? A 2008 report found that the average time wireless customers spend on hold before speaking with a customer service representative was 4.4 minutes. Again, in mom/kid time, that translates to a half hour. And don't kid yourself that the musak makes the time go faster. As one mom posted on Twitter last week:
"Stuck on hold listening to Hawaiian music. It's like I'm on a beach, hating your company."
Ouch. What can you do? If you've already blown it with directive #1 -- and failed to staff up for peak calling times -- then leapfrog to directive #2 and return control to the customer.
Give Moms the opportunity to ask for a call back. Play a message where you apologize for the wait, reiterate your commitment to excellent service, and allow the customer to enter their phone number to request a call back. Then have your very best customer service reps return those calls and offer a discount or extra service to make up for the inconvenience.
Scenario 2: In line
You've got a mom in line waiting to give you money -- a good thing. There are 12 customers in front of her also waiting to give you money -- a really good thing. You want to make sure all 12 of them make it to the register rather than abandoning ship.
Time for directives #3 and #4. Set expectations. If your store tends to have long waits at the cashier, post a sign like they do at Disneyland that predicts how long the line is from that point to the cashier. Somehow knowing what you're signing on for gives you more of a sense of control than a blind-length wait.
Next, provide value. Give moms more merchandise to peruse while in line, an educational video to watch, or samples to try. TJ Maxx is great at this, creating a tunnel of fun gifty items you pass through as you wait in line. I almost never arrive at the cashier without at least one item picked up during this idle time.
Lastly, never, ever give call-in customers priority over in-person customers. Last week I waited 20 minutes for my salad to be made in a virtually empty restaurant because dozens of phone-in orders for a corporate pick-up were in the queue before mine. Even though I didn't have my kids with me, I was furious at being treated like my time was of so little value. My parting words to the manager were "I will never, ever come here again." Ouch again.
Scenario 3: Online
You've got a mom at your website ready to place an order. How many screens must she encounter before she arrives at the desired order confirmation screen? If you don't know, count them. Then evaluate the necessity of each one. Must you really force her to create a username and password? Tick tock. Must she wrestle with the drop-down menu of every country on earth to choose USA, even though 95% of your orders are domestic? Tick tock. How quickly does your site calculate costs, shipping, personalization previews or other things needed to complete a sale? Time it.
And however long it takes, see if you can somehow make it faster. If you can't, offer up something of value to keep her entertained. We did this for client Hawaiian Airlines, creating fun messaging selling different features of the brand to appear during the ticket booking path. It works. Time spent waiting feels diminished when the customer is doing something else during the wait.
Another story to illustrate: an old historic office building received many complaints from tenants about how slow the ancient elevator was. Yet the building was not built to accommodate a modern-day higher-speed elevator. The building management team had an idea. They outfitted the inside of the elevator cars with mirrors so riders could check their lipstick or straighten their ties during the ride. Magically the complaints stopped.
That concludes today's Maternal Journal post, three days late from our normal publishing schedule. Sorry to have kept you waiting...