Category Archives: Customer Experience

Going the extra inch – Exceed Expectations

exceed expectations

What a fabulous weekend we had for sport! Although we did have a conflict in the Cooper household, which resulted in Formula 1 in one room, and tennis in another. Sorry, if you’re a cricket fan, that didn’t get a look in!

Thinking back, is there anything we can learn from Federer and Djokovic in that brilliant Wimbledon men’s final?

Here are 3 lessons I believe we can take away that relate to customer experience, and one aspect we probably want to avoid.

1. You’re only as good as your last experience

In Wimbledon, you’re only as good as your last match.

If you don’t win you simply don’t get through to the next round.

Likewise, in the customer’s eyes you’re generally only as good as your customer’s last experience. So, get it wrong once and you need on average 10 positive experiences to outweigh the negative experience.

To build trust your customers should be getting the same level of service each and every time they visit you so they won’t be disappointed on their second, seventh or even 70th visit.

2. You have to keep training

To keep delivering to such a high standard they have to train.

Not just every so often, but all the time. Always looking for incremental improvements.

It’s the same being at the top of your game with service. You have to train your team, not just as a one off, but ongoing, always refining their skills and your processes. You need to – not just meet expectations – but exceed expectations, so with regular customers this means continuous improvement.

3. Establish routines, rituals and habits

To keep playing their best they have their own routines and rituals.

The same applies in your business, to deliver a consistent level of great customer service and customer experience you have to have systems in place that help create habits, otherwise no two days will be the same and no two customer experiences will be the same. Have systems, routines or rituals for your team to follow, whoever is on duty…. Not just your exceptional team members, even your average ones should be able to deliver outstanding service every day.

4. The extra mile or extra inch?

These guys gave it their all.

So, I doubt either could sustain this level of performance day in day out.

This is where your customer service differs.

Everyone talks about going the extra mile. And of course it’s good to exceed expectations, but it doesn’t have to be massive. Whilst going the extra mile is good, just going the extra inch or two can make a difference and still leaves you with more in the bag to pull out next time!

Simple things such as getting back to people quicker than anticipated – speed always impresses, including something you thought they’d like just because you know it’s their favourite (the fact you’ve remembered this will of course earn you bonus points), or any of the little unexpected extras I talked about in last week’s blog, or in the video here

If you only do one thing

Delivering what you’ve promised is a given. But what can you and your team do to exceed expectations? Go the extra inch; not massive leaps; but aim for Consistency +1%.

That way you’ll always have something left for next time to impress those regulars!


Don’t ruin the surprise!

giving surprises

It’s my birthday today, and my husband is away, helping out a friend in France. I think it’s the first time in our 34 years of marriage we’ve not been together for at least some of the day on my birthday.

When the phone rang yesterday morning, I answered it with my normal greeting “Good morning, Caroline Cooper”. So the call didn’t exactly get off to a good start when the voice at the other end said “Is that Clive Cooper?”

When I went on to tell her he was away, she proceeded to tell me she was calling from an Interflora florist about the delivery of flowers for today; completely ruining the element of surprise!

To add insult to injury, she wasn’t allowed to discuss it with me (despite the fact that the flowers would be addressed to me) as I was not the person who had ordered them. Oh well, I just hope I’m not disappointed when they arrive!

Rather than ruining surprises we should be creating them instead.

That’s what GLUE does.

GLUE stands for Give Little Unexpected Extras, and this is a concept which works equally well for your team as it does for customers.

  • Giving little unexpected extras means firstly that you give something, so you’re not necessarily expecting anything in return; it’s not intended to be reciprocated, it’s simply being generous.
  • Little, means it doesn’t have to be anything lavish, it could be as simple as a thank you card. It’s not a big deal, but is actually something that means something to the individual.
  • It’s unexpected, so that means that not everyone is going to get otherwise is no longer surprise.
  • And it’s something extra, something over and above what you normally do, offer or include

So let’s think of a few examples:

  • It could be that one of your team members are about to go on holiday, they’ve put in extra effort over the last few days so as a thank you, you give them the opportunity to go home a couple of hours early to get sorted and packed.
  • It could be as simple as putting a little thank you card in the post, to a customer saying we really appreciate your business, or to a team member saying thank you for helping out or going above and beyond on a particular project or event.
  • It could be as simple as this, you see it’s raining, and the customer doesn’t have an umbrella, so you find them an umbrella to see them on their way.
  • Or a customer mentions something you don’t normally stock, but you go out of your way to find it for them
  • Gift wrapping or packing something with a personal touch or greeting because you notice it’s for a special occasion
  • Including something extra just because you think they’ll appreciate it due to e.g. the weather, time of day, who they have with them.

All these are spontaneous unexpected extras – all of which are tailored to the individual and the situation. They’re simple little gestures that don’t cost much.

They are all things that are low cost to you but which the recipient will really value.

So, make your ‘extras’ relevant, well timed and personal.

Start by giving little unexpected extras  to your team, so they are on the receiving end and they know how it feels.

And then give them licence to give little unexpected extras to your customers.

Take action

If you only do one thing, add some GLUE for someone today – whether it’s their birthday, as a thank you, or simply to let them know you care about them.

Related video: https://youtu.be/aWQtQx8tMtU

Related post: https://www.naturallyloyal.com/employee-recognition/



Getting emotional

improve customer experience

Why Emotions Matter to your Customer Experience

Last week was full of emotions for me. Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of my mother’s death, Wednesday would have been my father’s 90th birthday and of course Thursday commemorated D-Day. Who couldn’t fail to be moved by some of the incredible stories told by the veterans?

But emotions aren’t all ones of sadness, reflection or gratitude.

Emotions are key in influencing our customers’ perception of service and their likelihood of buying from us, becoming a repeat customer and in recommending us to others.

In fact:

Over 50% of the customer’s experience is down to emotions.

Your customers’ experience can be your single most valuable competitive advantage, whatever type of business you are in.  But, when it comes to experience based businesses such as hospitality, leisure and tourism this of course is even more important.

It’s the experience and emotions you create for customers that gets remembered.

Their experience is based on their perceptions and how they feel about your business. In other words, it’s based on their emotions. And you and your team are the key drivers of these.

So, what do we want customers to think and feel about us and when with us; what emotions do we want them to have?

These could be emotions of fun, joy, happiness. They might be ones of pride, excitement, achievement. They might be security, reassurance, comfort, or indulgence, inspiration, relaxation… I could go on!

Think about what your customers really care about and why they buy from you specifically.

When you and your team know the emotions you want your customers to have at each stage of the customer journey it makes it so much easier for everyone to determine what needs to happen at each stage and therefore what actions and behaviours are appropriate. All too often we tell people what they should do or say, but not necessarily explain why.

When getting team members to think about customers emotions here are a couple of exercises I use:

1. The Thank You Letter

This is a useful exercise to get your team thinking about how they want customers to feel about the business as a whole but also about them personally.

The participants are to imagine they have just received an appreciative thank you letter from a customer, one which makes them feel happy and proud.

Ask them to jot down a few ideas about what might be in that letter that makes them feel good. What would be the things they’d like that customer to notice about them.

Then ask them to write the letter they’d love to receive!

The purpose of this exercise is to get them thinking about the perfect customer experience and how they might contribute to it.

2. Customer Needs and Expectations

Delivering excellent customer service and ensuring people have a memorable experience when they visit starts with understanding what they want and expect.

This exercise helps your team recognise that different customer groups will have different requirements and will want different things.

When I’m training I ask participants to identify their main customer groups, then get them to visualise each group – picturing the person (if a family, they might want to split this into parents and children and even sub-divide for different ages of children)

They are to give each person a name, gender, age, where they live, disposable income and other basic demographic information, then start adding in the detail. You can start to build up a detailed profile of them, their family and friends, their favourite pastimes, food, habits, interests, values, etc. Anything that’s important to them so you build up a profile until you feel you know them as a friend. Then draw an image of this person (and family if appropriate). A stick man is fine!

Under the picture I ask them to identify the needs, wants and expectations of that customer, that will be specific to that category and not so important to other categories of customers, thinking about their emotional needs a well as their physical needs?

Recognising that the customer journey and what influences their perception of the customer service can be determined before they even make direct contact with you, this can impacted by how they are feeling at this first touch point.

With these needs, wants and expectations in mind in an ideal world…

  1. How would they like these customers to be feeling before they arrive?
  2. How would they like these customers to feel whilst here?
  3. How would they like these customers to feel as a result of their visit? E.g. how would you like them to feel when they leave, how would you like to be remembered?

Emphasise you want them to be thinking about feelings and emotions, not about actions and behaviours.

At the end of the exercise ask them to identify:

  1. What you do brilliantly? This might include things you do that are unique or special that make you stand out from your competitors.
  2. What are the things you do really well, we’re 99% there, but with just a 1% tweak, we could make even better? (i.e. with minimal effort we could make a big difference.)
  3. Pick one emotion or feeling you are not yet achieving as well as you could. What could you do or put in place to improve this? Get them to focus on things which are within their own sphere of influence, i.e. things they could do, say or put in place that would make a difference.

Take action

If you only do one thing to improve your customers’ experience – identify the top 3-4 emotions you’d like your customers to experience when they visit/buy from you.

Related posts: https://www.naturallyloyal.com/employee-recognition/

https://www.naturallyloyal.com/emotional_triggers/


The Problem with ‘No Problem’

On one of the workshops I was delivering last week we were discussing the use of positive language. One of my pet hates is the response “no problem”. So we got into a discussion on why “No problem” is a problem…

Firstly, our brains are not very good at processing negatives. So, if we tell someone not to worry, tell a child don’t spill your drink, or a customer there’s no problem our brains focus on worry, spill, and problem.

Secondly, people think of you and associate you with the words that you tell them to associate with you. It’s no accident that in advertising you see words like luxury, easy, fresh, safe, exciting, etc.

This means you can plant the image in your customer’s head of what or how you’d like them to think about you and/or your business.

For example, if you offer a service or any kind of help, although you might solve your customers’ problems you certainly don’t what them to associate you with problems, but rather with help, helpful, solutions, easy.

If you offer accommodation depending on what your customers value most you may want to be associated with a good night’s sleep, comfort, relaxing, peaceful, pleasure, value, convenience.

If you’d like your customers to associate you with pleasure, use the word pleasure frequently. For example, when someone says, “thank you”, rather than responding “no problem” respond “my pleasure”.

In other words, people will associate you with the words you tell them to associate with you. So, unless you want your customers to associate your business with problems, stop your team using “no problem”!

Instead, start by identifying 4-5 words you’d like customers to associate with you/your business. Of course, every business will be different, and you want your customers to associate you with something that differentiates you from your competitors. If you have clearly defined values you probably already have some of these words already.

Then weave these words into conversations as often as possible.

So, the example of a helpdesk might use some of the following phrases:

“Yes, I can help you with that”,  “Let’s see how I can help you with that”, “Let’s see what we can do to help you with that”, “If we do x would that help you?”, “I’m glad we could help you”, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Give your team visual cues to remind them of the words to use. Although I’m not a fan of scripts, you can still encourage the use of these phrases in opening lines and closing lines of any customer conversations.

Action

If you only do one thing: Listen to how often your team say “no problem” to customers and find an alternative phrase for them to use which better reflects what you’d rather your customers associate with your business.


How to change your team members’ moods

I’m sure from time to time even your most outgoing team members have their off days – those times when they are down, flustered, bored, angry or frustrated.

And of course, this impacts their colleagues.

And your customers.

Most people believe they can’t change their moods, but here are 4 things (including an exercise you can do with your team as part of your customer service training) you can do with your team to influence their moods, so they are more productive and engaged with their job and engaged with servicing your customers well.

Action point

If you only do one thing as a result of watching this, help your team members identify when they are in an unresourceful state and how to change this.



Ways with Words and how they impact customer experience and service culture

words impact service culture

Do you remember the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”?

Won’t they?

Ask any experienced marketing copywriter and they’ll be able to tell you just how powerful words can be in creating both positive and negative emotions, and prompting people to take notice, put up barriers or take action.

In today’s video in my mini video series on the A-Z of creating a service culture (we are up to the letter W now) I talk about the importance of your choice of words, and how some can create a positive or negative emotion; not from a marketing perspective, but how they might impact how your customers and/or the team members feel and how this gets reflected in your customers’ experience and service culture.

 

Building Rapport

People generally like (and feel more comfortable with) people like themselves. Using similar words, terminology and expressions helps build rapport with customers and team members alike. So, listen out for the terminology others use and try to use their terms rather than yours.

(This extends to showing common interests, common goals and common values.  So, assuming you share these let them know, as these can help to bond you together.  A relationship with a customer or team member will be a lot easier if you share something you have in common.)

 

Adding Value

Do you remember how Gerald Ratner described the jewellery he sold in his (up till then successful) jewellery stores?

The words you use to describe your products and services will have a big impact on how people perceive them, and the value they place on them.

Describing something as ‘just…’ or ‘only…’ can work to play down the price, but when you’re describing a product or service you have the impact of diminishing its value. Instead, use powerful words which will create emotional appeal (bearing in mind that most buying decisions are based more on emotions than logic). Such as: gorgeous, luxurious, delicious, creamy, warming.

Teach your team to use such descriptions for your products and services. That doesn’t mean to say they need a script, but get them to identify what – for them – best describes that product or service, a description they are comfortable with when explaining to a customer.

 

Dealing with disagreements

Whether it’s handling complaints, dealing with poor performance, or simply having to say no to a customer or a team member, your choice of words can have a big impact. Some are like red rags to a bull. Here are a few examples we so often hear…

Yes, but… As soon as anyone hears the word ‘but’ they know they are about to be contradicted. See: https://www.naturallyloyal.com/yes-but/

It’s our policy – no one cares about your policies, they just want to get what they want (or the next best thing).

You can’t, you have to, you must – people don’t like being told what to do; offer suggestions, recommendations, if you do X you’ll get Y (Y being a solution or something of benefit to them).

That’s not my job, that’s not our department, that’s not my responsibility.  Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do – even if this is simply helping to put them through to the appropriate person or department.

 

Blinded by science

It’s easy to fall into the trap of using industry jargon, but if your customer or team member is not familiar with this jargon, it can make them feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or patronised.

Don’t dumb down if you don’t need to, but just beware of using terms others either simply don’t understand or could be misinterpreted.

 

Common courtesies

Ensure your greetings are sincere; there’s a huge difference between a scripted, bland and robotic “how are you today, sir? ” without even bothering to look up or listen to the answer, and being greeted with a sunny smile and a cheerful “Good morning, Mr Smith! We haven’t seen you for a while; welcome back!”

Using someone’s name when you greet them makes them feel more valued. However, never shorten their name unless they ask you to. So, Mr Smith doesn’t become Fred, Andrew doesn’t become Andy or Deborah doesn’t become Debbie unless that’s what they request.

Never under estimate the value of a heartfelt “thank you” be that to a customer, team member, supplier or colleague.

 

If you only do one thing

Over the next 24 hours take stock of the words and language you use and listen the words your team use.

Ask: do these create a positive emotion or leave people with a negative impression, and how well does the outcome reflect the service culture you want to create.


When I have more time

The reality is that we will never have more time; everyone has the same 1440 minutes in a day, and the same 168 hours in a week. (Okay, so if you’re in the UK you will have had an extra hour on Saturday night, but don’t forget that will be cruelly snatched back from us in March!).

It’s what we do with that time that counts.

It’s not just how we spend our time that impacts us, but how our team spend their time, too. When they’re not being as productive as you think they should or could be it’s important to stand back and analyse why.

That’s one of the things I’ve been doing this week for one of my clients. I’ve been working with some newly appointed customer service supervisors, who have been getting too bogged down in the day-to-day reactive tasks (which really should be carried out by their team members) and thus making very little headway on some of the proactive activities they should be working on to drive their customer service forward.

I find it’s not unusual for newly appointed managers or supervisors to lack confidence in allocating or delegating tasks, for fear of losing control or in case the team member doesn’t do it as well as they would’ve done. Particularly when they have been promoted internally.

However, when they fail to delegate and trust team members to get on with things this can lead to frustration all round. The supervisor has too much to do and ends up with too little time to complete bigger picture and more proactive tasks. Their line manager is frustrated because there is little headway on these proactive activities. And the team members end up feeling undervalued.

Of course, this all has a knock-on effect on the customer too. Even if they don’t sense the frustration amongst the team, they will undoubtedly end up not receiving the best service possible.

If your supervisors are struggling to let go here are 7 ideas and points to review with them.

  1. Get them to identify what they are here for; what things wouldn’t happen if the job didn’t exist. Most people will give you a list of the tasks or activities that won’t get completed. Let them give you this list but then go back and get them to identify the outcomes of those activities. For example: an activity might be conducting monthly 1:1 meetings with each of their team members, one of the outcomes of which is for team members to feel valued, ultimately contributing to their level of engagement and productivity.
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  2. Ask them to track and then analyse a day’s activity. Of all of the activities they completed during the day how many of these and what proportion of time was spent on things that only they could do, and that contributed to what they’re there for. Then get them to identify all the things that in a perfect world could be delegated to somebody else. See if there are any activities left, that really don’t need to be done at all.
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  3. Explain to them the difference between importance and urgency (ref: Stephen R. Covey ~ The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People). Help them identify examples of tasks which are non-urgent but important (QII activities). Then get them to break down these activities into the smallest possible denominator, so they can identify which tasks could be delegated, and schedule in the rest, so they can be chipping away at these QII activities.
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  4. Ask them to identify what holds them back with delegating; for them to be as honest as possible. Their responses might include: fear of losing control, reluctance to give up the tasks they enjoy, thinking it will be quicker to do it themselves, they’re not confident team members are capable, they’re afraid they’re going to get a negative response when they ask, they don’t want to overburden anyone.
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  5. Help them identify what can be gained from delegating tasks: free up time for proactive tasks, develop and/or stretch team members, the job might get done more quickly, more cheaply, and maybe even done better!
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  6. Before delegating anything, get them to prepare, by thinking through the purpose of the task, how it will be measured, what this person will need to carry it out effectively, and how it will be followed up. Here’s a checklist I use with inexperienced managers and supervisors to help them really think it through in advance. They won’t need this every time, but it helps focus their mind on what they need to consider beforehand.
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  7. Monitoring and measurement is an area where you might have extremes. Some newly appointed managers are so nervous about letting go, they hover the whole time and never give the person a chance to get on with it. But then at the other end of the spectrum you might have managers who simply make the assumption that everything is on track, and don’t do enough to monitor or follow-up that the task of been completed, as requested.

Letting go is a gradual process, and any inexperienced manager or supervisor will need time to build up their confidence before they will trust their team members to get on with the task in hand. So, in the same way you would expect them to review and follow-up with tasks they have allocated, you’ll need to do the same with them to build up their confidence and skill.

 

p.s. If you’d like some help training your first line managers set up a call with me here, via my online diary


7 Reminders

Yesterday I attended the Visitor Attraction Conference in London. There was an excellent cross section of speakers, but in recognition of National Customer Service Week this week I thought it pertinent to pick out some of the observations and insights into the overall customer experience.

In a visitor attraction it is more than ever about the experience – how you leave the visitor feeling before, during and as a result of their visit. But I believe all of the points below are equally relevant in any business, be that hospitality, leisure, retail or professional services.

In fact, the experience your customers, visitors, patients, guests or clients receive might be the one thing that sets you apart from your competitors.

So, what were the points re-iterated yesterday?

Here are 7 customer service principles I was reminded of:

  1. Everyone wants value for money. This doesn’t mean cheap. There are plenty who are willing to pay higher prices providing they still see it as good value. So it’s not about discounting, but adding value.
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  2. Customers’ expectations are changing. Everyone wants an instant response, be that a confirmation of booking, returning a phone call or responding to a comment on Twitter. What are the things your customers expect as standard e.g. Wifi in public places? Customers want to share their experiences with others. Is your product ‘Instagram-able’? Let them do your marketing for you.
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  3. Customers want authenticity. This translates into helping your team members take pride in what they do and have the okay to be themselves; to say and do what they think best to meet customers’ expectations, not work from a robotic stilted script.
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  4. Make it easy for customers. Simple things like checking your website gives you all the information a customer needs to take the next step – be that placing an order, making a booking, phoning or travelling to you. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s so easy to miss key information such as how to reach you by public transport or the correct postcode to use in their sat nav to reach your entrance rather than a dead end!
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  5. Create a loyal following of local ambassadors. Involve them, invite them to see what you’re up to and if relevant to your business, offer them some incentive to use your facility, services or product. This is easy to do for a B2C business e.g. in the visitor attraction world that might mean offering a free ticket if they bring 3 friends or family along to your attraction. If you’re a B2B business, you could do something along similar lines for neighbouring or complementary local businesses.
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  6. When customers give you feedback, particularly via Social Media whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, it pays to acknowledge it: thank people for the compliments, express concern for criticisms. Not just for the sake of the customer commenting, but to demonstrate to others that you care.
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  7. Acknowledge and thank people when they’ve done business with you. This is important at the end of the ‘transaction’, but even more powerful when you thank them at the outset for choosing you in the first place. (By the way in visitor attractions when visitors are thanked when they leave it has been shown to have a 20% rise in recommendations.)

Of course, all the above can only be delivered with an enthusiastic and engaged team, and backed up by regular inspiring, engaging and memorable customer service training, so your team have the confidence and skills to meet these ever more demanding customer expectations.

Action

If you only do 1 thing:

Discuss these 7 points at your next team meeting and get your team’s perspective on how well they think you do as a business on each of these points.



Systems and resources

system daria-nepriakhina-474036Day 10 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

10. Systems and resources

How often have we heard the phrase “I’m sorry, the system won’t allow me to do that.”?

Do you have any systems in place which make life difficult for your team members?

Poor systems can be frustrating for team members, but also impact productivity, the customer experience and ultimately your bottom line.

Here are a few to look out for:

  • No system in place for routine tasks so staff reinvent the wheel every time they carry out similar tasks.
  • Not fully understood, so not followed
  • Over complicated or cumbersome
  • Too much red tape or to-ing and fro-ing that slows everything down
  • Unworkable due to lack of time, right equipment, tools, or products

Poor systems or a lack of resources inevitably puts extra pressure on the team, particularly when there is a direct impact on customers…

Resulting in an inconsistent level of service, leaving the customers frustrated or disappointed.

It’s easy for us to become oblivious of how ineffective a system works or poor the equipment when we’re not using it every day. So, ask your team for their observations and feedback.

Very often the simplest of modifications is all that’s needed to make all the difference.

 



A Waiting Game

Busy periods should be great for business. But don’t let the bonus of being busy backfire.

With half term next week and the glorious weather of late you may be expecting a busy week ahead, particularly if you’re a visitor attraction or leisure business.

And quite possibly some of your customers will be visiting you for the first time. So naturally you’ll want to give them a great first impression. And keep your regulars happy, too.

So how can you ensure that even when you’re busy your customers get the same warm welcome and attention they do on every other day of the year.

When we’re busy one of the criticisms from customers can be queuing. Let’s face it; none of us like to be kept waiting. We always think of the 101 things we could be doing instead.

Here are 10 things to think about so your team can be prepared and your customers get the warm welcome they’re expecting …even if waiting.

1. Prevention is better than cure

Queues and being kept waiting are never going to be popular with your customers. Whether it’s waiting in a queue, being put on hold, waiting for a slow internet connection or waiting for your order to arrive, any of these situations can try our patience.

Estimate your busy times. If you know when your peak times are in the first instance warn customers of these times, with alternatives when they can avoid the rush – and potentially even out the pressure for you.

I know this sounds obvious, but adjust your staffing accordingly. This isn’t just a case of more staff when busy; it means more staff who are competent and confident to take on the extra workload, so ensure appropriate training is given to anyone who is redeployed to ‘help out’.

If you have self-service areas, or payment machines, help speed up the process by helping customers; you can avoid the time it takes them to read instructions, which might reduce your transaction time by half, thus reducing queues.

Can you divert people from queues to other options to achieve the same result? E.g.  to other tills, entrances or places with shorter queues. Give your team licence to cut red tape and open up alternative channels where you can.

2. Make use of waiting time to save time elsewhere

If people do have to wait, make this as painless as possible.

Can customers be doing other things whilst queuing or waiting to be served which will save time once they get served –  such as reading information that speeds up their buying decision, e.g. reading what’s on offer, finding out about specials, understanding what’s included in each price option?  Or learning of anything that isn’t available so they can be thinking of alternatives (and not have their hopes dashed when you tell them they can’t have their No 1 choice).

Can they be getting tickets or vouchers ready, filling out forms or processing payment. Can you take cash payments from people in the queue to speed things up?

Can customers be doing something that saves them time once served, e.g. reading menus or site maps to plan their visit?

3 A team effort

Even if you don’t have enough space, equipment or outlets to serve more customers at any one time, you can at least have people on hand to deal with any queries, printing out bills or acting as ‘runners’ for those dealing with customers.

Have empathy for the waiting customers; the waiting may not be your fault, but take some responsibility for action, not blame others for their wait.  If you rely on business partners or outsourced services, your customers don’t care if it’s down to them; as far as they are concerned you all represent your business.

4. Alleviate the pain

Make waiting time a pleasurable experience by offering your customers something to distract from the wait or maybe even compensate for their wait. Ask them to take a seat, or stand in the warm…

Maybe a little something to compensate for the wait may be appropriate: a drink, map, kids’ colouring in sheet or sticker, as appropriate for your business. Just a small token gift, just to say we appreciate your patience.

(And if you’re now subconsciously thinking you couldn’t afford to do this every time someone has to wait; maybe it’s time you reviewed your customer experience. Waiting should be the exception, not the norm. Compare this investment to the cost of losing the customer altogether!)

If people have been kept patiently waiting for even a few moments, at the very least acknowledge this and thank them for their patience.

5. Give alternatives

If there is a delay, does the customer wait, or do they opt for something that doesn’t involve waiting? That might of course depend on just how long they have to wait.

When we’re put on hold, if told we are 2nd in the queue we are far more likely to hang on than if we’re told we are 10th.

So let you customers know – is it expected to be a 2 minutes wait or half an hour? Disney have mastered this; you always know how long you’ll be waiting in line, so you aren’t agitated whilst you wait.

Being honest (and not making false promises and under estimating) allows the customer to make an informed decision. If you need to put someone on hold, ask them first if this is OK; don’t just assume they’re happy to hang on.

If you’ve a backlog of orders and they’ll have to wait 10 minutes for their Panini tell them so (and of course make sure it does only take 10 minutes or less!).

At the very least give notice if you can’t deliver your promise.

Being kept informed is not about making excuses!  It’s about keeping the customer informed of the situation and giving them options…

6. Streamline your operation

Review all the touch points on the customers’ journey – where can time be saved; waiting for web pages or images to load, phones being answered more quickly, keeping on top of orders so purchases can be dispatched/served quickly.

Do customers ever have to repeat information they’ve already given, double back to access things they need, duplicate processes, or re-queue for secondary transactions or information. This not only wastes their valuable time, but takes more effort on their part, (and potentially disrupts other queuing customers).

Just because this is how it’s always been done, isn’t a good enough reason to do it that way!

Do you give customers accurate information so they can get to speak to the right person first time around? Do you have some generic phone number that takes customers through 5 (or even more) options before they can even get to speak to a human being? Give them a direct number next time so as a valued customer they can jump the ‘queue’ to go directly to the right person.

If you’re not sure if there is any doubling up – ask your customers… And ask your team; I bet they know where things could be streamlined.

7. Save your customers time and effort

In the same way that anything that wastes time for your customers can be an irritation, anything that saves your customer time will add value.

Why not have an express service, line, process, phone number, etc. for your existing loyal customers. Make them feel special and valued. Even for new customers who are time poor, introduce a quick option that saves time – at a premium price if you need to – you may be surprised how many take you up on that.

A minute here, and a minute there may not seem much individually, but add them all together and you might save your customers considerably time.

8. Keep a balance

However, remember you don’t want customers to feel rushed, so apply time savings sensibly and appropriately.

Never compromise quality for speed or let your team use it as an excuse to cut corners or make mistakes.

It’s a fine balance. Test, review and ask your team for their ideas, then tweak accordingly.

9. Last impressions

You’re only as good as your last encounter with the customer.

What’s the very last thing your customers see, hear, smell, taste or feel as they leave?

Say thank you. A simple verbal thank you and acknowledgement as they leave, even if it’s just a smile and a nod of the head or wave is always appreciated by customers; it’s one of the simplest ways to make them feel appreciated.

Whatever happens in the last few moments of their visit will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression.

What’s the one thing they remember when they get home, or next time they’re thinking of visiting you…?

10. Engage and enthuse your team for the busy time ahead

A happy team equals happy customers. Give your team all the information, support, resources and training they need.

Tap into people’s strengths and give experienced team members specific responsibilities to oversee key points on the customer journey.

Empower everyone to make decisions to do what’s in the customer’s best interest. Having to seek approval or authorisation at the best of times is annoying for the customer and demeaning for team members, but it becomes even more irritating when you’re busy.

Be the prefect role model. Stay enthusiastic and energised; staff and customers will soon pick it up if you’re not.

We talked about acknowledging customers, but at the end of the busy period it’s so important to acknowledge your team; thank you for their hard work over any busy periods. It doesn’t have to be lavish; a simple thank you for all their hard work goes a long way.

So make the most of your busy periods and don’t let the bonus of being busy backfire.