Make customers wait at your peril

Written by 3:13 pm People Focus

In October of last year Starbucks launched a mobile app for 150 of its stores in Portland, Oregon that allows customers to place and pay for orders remotely.

In October of last year Starbucks launched a mobile app for 150 of its stores in Portland, Oregon that allows customers to place and pay for orders remotely. That way, when they get to the store, their order is all ready for them. Waiting eliminated.

Starbucks is one of those brands with its finger perpetually pressed against the pulse of consumerism, and in this app it has responded well to the change in consumer culture that is growing impatience.

Why waiting is anathema

Today we want what we want, exactly when we want it. Our lives are lived on the go and scheduled to the max, so in terms of consumption we look for companies and brands that offer services and products that facilitate that way of living.

Nowhere is this more the case than in our online worlds. From GPS to smart phones and all those other nifty devices we’ve assimilated into the fabric of daily life, we’ve become accustomed to real-time interactions, services and purchases when operating online.

Moreover, after we have experienced super-swiftness, we start to expect it – even think of it as a right, and so feel we should have it all the time. Our tolerance for delays and waiting times has consequently plummeted.

As a result of this somewhat agitated attitude towards time we fill every potentially ‘empty’ second with something. We no longer stand idly in the post office queue, rather we check our Facebook or Instagram accounts, WhatsApp a friend, or play Candy Crush. By filling up all such minutes and seconds, we’ve taught ourselves to hate them even more.

This refusal by consumers to wait is an important observation, one that has identified as a key consumer trend in 2015 and called the “End of Waiting”. Brands and businesses with an online presence ignore it at their peril.

So what to do? There are two ways for brands and organisations to effectively end consumers’ waiting:

Eliminate the wait

Both online and offline, companies need to seek ways of scrubbing any waiting period in their service delivery.

The example of Starbucks is a good one of a brand eliminating the offline waiting period by utilising online realities.

Another brand eliminating customers’ wait time is Path Talk in the USA, an app that facilitates customer-to-business inquiries. The way it works is that users SMS a query to a business via the app, and Path Talk then contacts the business on your behalf. Once Path Talk receives a reply, they SMS you back the reply. A great idea – no more annoying jingles while you as the customer sit waiting on the phone for an indeterminate time to speak with a consultant.

One area in which this principle applies to all companies with an online presence is page upload times. To sit and do ‘nothing’ for a moment while a website loads is no longer acceptable to consumers. In fact, research shows that people’s tolerance to online waiting has been reduced to practically nothing. If your webpage takes three seconds to load, many will abort the action, meaning they never even see your page and you’ve lost that chance for conversions. Even a second of upload is too long in 2015. Uploads need to be instantaneous.

Moreover mobile users are increasingly expecting the same web-browsing experience on their phones that they receive on their desktops, and this includes load times. Some even expect faster mobile load times!

The criteria for online success have been critically upped.

The good news is that many are prepared to pay for faster service, both online and offline, especially when they’re part of niche consumer markets, such as mothers dealing with fractious kids, service providers who pride themselves on their own speedy service, the wealthy for whom good service is a part of their self-image, and the well-travelled who’ve seen things done better elsewhere.

Fill the wait

If a wait of any kind is unavoidable, then the way to not annoy your customers is to fill that time, by providing interesting information, gamifying the moment, or entertaining them.

A fantastic example is Liseberg. This Swedish amusement park released an app last year that allows people waiting in line for the Helix roller coaster to play the Helix Game on their mobile phones with others standing in line. Every 15 minutes the player with the most points is allowed to skip the queue!

And it’s not just your own waits that you can fill. Smart brands are starting to capitalise on waiting times generated by others. Take for instance wait times at airports and bus and train stations. Ask yourself: can my company provide information or entertainment apposite to the situation that helps alleviate passengers’ boredom? Perhaps broadcast funnies on a screen, or develop an app that allows the traveller to input a destination and receive tourist and other tips on that place? The possibilities are exciting and endless.

So don’t wait – because waiting is passé. Start eliminating or filling up customers’ waiting times right now!

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