“The thing about waiting is that the longer you wait, the more impatient you become.” ~Ashay Abbhi, Writer

Have you ever shown up for your doctor’s appointment right on time, only to wait for over an hour to be ushered into an examination room, told to strip down to your underwear, sit on the bed covered in paper that sticks to your backside, told the doctor will see you shortly, and then had to wait another 30 minutes before he or she barges in just to spend 5 minutes with you?

OF COURSE YOU HAVE! WE ALL HAVE! It’s an American rite of passage. (For those of you reading this outside the U.S., you may have your own version.)

Or you’ve waited at home during that 4 hour window for the cable guy to show up, who by the way, showed up right after that 4 hour window passed and you had to get back to work because you already took a half day sick leave.

Maybe you’ve spent 6 hours on the phone with Tech Support, trying to fix a problem that could have been fixed if you would have just rebooted your computer, but they never told you that.

People hate to wait needlessly, especially in today’s hurry up, fast paced, leaving things to the last minute, (Christmas shopping, anyone?) I need this done yesterday world.

Our time has value, and to waste our time shows a lack of respect. What’s a business to do? Well, if you want to hold on to your customers, make the wait as short as possible, as interesting as possible, and as distracting as possible.

To see a great example of how to do it right, look no further than the happiest place on earth, Disneyland. They have this waiting thing down to a science.

If you want to go on one of the more popular rides during spring break or the summer months (are you crazy?), they tell you how long the anticipated wait will be right when you get into line. They then keep you occupied with stories, distractions and build up to the ride. They make it fun to wait in line. (Okay, that’s a bit much, especially if you have 4 kids under 6 years old).

If there are delays, they will tell you about it immediately and keep you informed every step of the way. That’s all people want—to be kept informed, even if it’s bad news.

And at the end, if everything goes well, they usher you into one of the 967 gift shops so they can sell you something you don’t need and will never use, before sending you back out into the park, where by the way, a snack shop or restaurant just happens to be located. (Mommy, I’m huuunnngrrrryyyyyy).

Here are some tips to alleviate the pain.

If your customer is waiting on the phone:
  • If it’s going to be more than 5 minutes, give them the option to have you call them back. This is becoming more and more popular.
  • Give them a choice of what music they want to listen to, or no music at all. We all like choices.
  • Have self-service customer support system on your web site, such as FAQ’s or video support if there is a problem with a product or service. This is more popular with younger consumers, but customers of all ages are starting to notice.

 

If it’s waiting in your establishment:
  • Have free wifi available.
  • Use beepers or those vibrating thingies so they don’t have to stand in an actual line. Take advantage of apps that show the wait time, let you order or get your name on the list before leaving home.
  • Make use of digital TVs or screens. Show them the latest news (although that might be a bit too depressing), make them laugh (a better option), tempt them with scenes from beautiful spots around the world or maybe show an interesting history or cooking lesson.
  • If there is a long line, have a representative walk the line to be able to answer simple questions, or to make sure people are not needlessly standing in line. There is nothing worse than standing 15 minutes in a line, only to be told the line you should be standing in is down the hall.

If you have high end, high repeat customers, treat them special with a distinct number to call if they have a problem, or separate check in line. The airlines do it. It will be worth the repeat business.

Above all else, communicate, communicate, communicate. Did I mention communicate? Always acknowledge the customer. Focus on the experience, address perceived wait times and optimize agent efficiency. Make sure what your customers are waiting for is worth waiting for. You’ll be glad you did, and we’ll be glad you did. Doctor, are you listening?

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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