7 simple ways to reduce your queues and manage customers effectively

November 26, 2021

In the UK, the standard convention was to form a queue whenever there is a mass of people waiting to get served. Queuing was considered a part of the shopping experience.

With coronavirus, that’s changed somewhat. For 64% of British shoppers, shopping isn’t as fun as it used to be, and the number of people who are inclined to stand in a queue is far less than it used to be.

If customers see long lines, 84% of them will avoid walking into a retail store. So with your business it is essential that you have a system in place that minimises waiting times.

We outline some simple and cost-effective ways you can manage customer waiting times, improve the queuing experience and speed up the queuing system.

(1) Streamline your checkout

Queues develop when checkouts slow down and aren’t processing customers as quickly as they need to. Inefficiencies often occur when customers pay by cash or card.

Customers paying by cash have to pull out their money, count the coins then wait for change. Even customers paying by card have to key in a PIN and wait for the transaction to be authorised.

Although it may only take just a minute to process cash or card, customers hate waiting. Also, these small increments can build up over time and really reduce your efficiency.

You can speed up service time by implementing the new contactless limit that was introduced last week. Now customers can pay up to £100 with just a swipe of their card.

Nowadays, customers aren’t just limited to paying with cards and cash. They can pay with Google Pay, Apple Pay and various other alternative payment methods.

All of these alternative payment methods are designed for fast, easy and contactless transactions. If you want to offer some of the most popular payment methods, you can do so with Pomelo Pay.

Once you have created an account, the Pomelo Pay app can be downloaded onto any smartphone. With it, you can turn your phone into a POS and accept over 25 ways to pay including digital wallets, buy now, pay later platforms and cryptocurrencies.

Incorporating smartphone payments will enable you to speed up your checkout, improve customer satisfaction and improve your queueing times.

(2) Integrate remote ordering

With the technology that is available to us, you can cut out queues completely through smartphone ordering.

QR codes are a type of barcode that can be scanned by mobile phones, which take users to a menu or website where they can complete their own order themselves.

Tom is the owner of Phoreal, a street vendor in Kingston that implemented QR codes and digital signage during lockdown.

“QR codes are the answer to the problem because customers don’t need to queue up in a line - you can put the QR code anywhere, outside, inside, anywhere - all they need to do is scan it and then pay for it...I benefit from it because you can virtually do anything with it. It is the answer to the...issues that we are having right now.”

Remote ordering through smartphones enabled many businesses to navigate through the pandemic. However many restaurants are continuing to use this new way of ordering.

Mobile app ordering eliminates the need for queuing and allows customers to enter the ordering process as soon as they sit down.

Cooking times are also transformed as the kitchen receives a real-time notification as soon as the order is paid for through self-service.

All of these efficiencies greatly enhance the customer journey and help to minimise waiting times.

(3) Manage your customers

Processing a customer who wants to pay for a product with a contactless card will be a lot faster than responding to someone who wants to return a faulty product.

Every customer's needs are different and lumping them all together into one queue will hurt your average waiting time.

The customers who need to speak to customer services will be more accepting of long queue times, so you should manage this by opening a separate queue system with a waiting area for them.

All of your paying customers can get fast-tracked through the tills and you’ll be ensuring that the customer flow never slows down.

(4) Use a queue management system

If you find yourself guessing how many tills you need to open, you can leave everything in the hands of a queue management solution.

These systems use sensors for people counting. The system will tell you who’s in your store and work out how much staffing and tills are needed to adequately manage customers.

During busy times, managers will be notified when more tills are needed. During quiet times, staff can be redeployed for other business functions.

A queue management system will also provide you with metrics so you can track where bottlenecks occur and what improvements can be made.

(5) Entertain your customers

Whether you’re short-staffed or inundated with customers on a busy holiday, there will be times when there’s nothing you can do about long queues.

Customers hate standing in queues doing nothing. If they are doing nothing, studies show that their perception of the waiting time becomes longer. If you entertain your customers or give them something to do, customers become a lot more accommodating.

Sasser, Olsen and Wyckoff in Management of Service Operations wrote about a hotel group that received many complaints about the long wait times for an elevator. They installed a mirror and the number of customers who complained dropped off significantly.

The actual wait time for the elevator remained exactly the same, but people were able to fill the waiting time by checking their appearance.

Likewise, if people are waiting in line for a restaurant, simply giving customers menus lets them know that they have been acknowledged and that they are ‘getting started’. They have been entered into the ordering process and aren’t just standing idly in a queue.

If you manage a retail shop, TVs, magazines and other interactive entertainment can be placed at strategic locations around queues. This will help placate customers and ensure they leave without any negative feelings.

(6) Manage perceptions

Like entertaining your customers, managing perceptions won’t actually reduce waiting times, but it will help you maintain customer satisfaction.

If you run a restaurant for example, sometimes it just isn’t possible to serve more customers. If demand is high and all your tables are filled, new customers will simply have to wait. How you manage these customers is your most important job.

David Maister studied the psychology of queues. He says, “If you expect a certain level of service, and perceive the service reviewed to be higher, you are a satisfied client. If you perceive the same level as before, but expected higher, you are disappointed and, consequently, a dissatisfied client.”

So when customers ask about waiting times, you should always overestimate waiting times. If you say there’s a 20 minute waiting time, but sit the customer down in 10 minutes, they start the meal in a positive mood. Do it the other way around, and problems will arise.

Many customer service workers remarked in the study that, if customers sit down in a good mood, it’s easy to keep them happy. If they sit down disgruntled, it’s impossible to turn them around and they are actively looking for faults to find.

(7) Organise your queues

It goes without saying that you should have measures in place to keep your queues organised. Customers dislike queuing, and they find it unforgivable when another customer who hasn’t waited as long is served before them.

Maister found that when customers have to wait in an unorderly queue, they become nervous, as they wonder when they will actually get served. With an unorganised queue, customers also get anxious and worried about being served behind someone else who hasn’t waited as long.

All of these feelings impact negatively on the customer experience and prolongs their perception of waiting.

If you manage a business that regularly sees long, snaking queues forming in store, then you need to have systems in place to organise them. If these queues often become disorganised, you should assign staff to assist customers and answer any questions.

If you want to make your checkout even faster, contact us at Pomelo Pay, to find out what our app can do for your business.