Psychology of Customer Waiting

Customer Waiting Is Most Frustrating Element For Customers – Waiting

The Psychology of Waiting – Anticipate Wait Times To PREVENT Customer Anger

By Richard A Stone

Commentary: Customer wait time is one of THE issues customers cite as most infuriating. It’s not possible to prevent wait times completely, because there will always be unexpected circumstances, peaks and valleys in terms of customer demand and load. However, by anticipating customer waiting, and understanding the psychology of the customer who has to wait to be served, you can do a lot to PREVENT situations from escalating from annoyance, to outright rage.

It is natural for sales professionals to want to give their customers the very best service, and part of this is to deal with any requests in a prompt and efficient manner. Such core sales training principles are, however, often ignored by managers managing non-sales teams. Every member of staff needs to be aware that delays in serving a customer, whether that service is provided on the phone or via email, leads to unhappy customers who are likely at the first opportunity to take their business to your competitors, or, if the customer is internal, causes increased conflict and poorer teamwork.

The principles of the psychology of waiting have been determined from numerous investigations that have been carried out. Understanding these principles can help all managers ensure their staff do not inadvertently cause customer dissatisfaction. The seven principles are:

1.When you have nothing to do the time spent waiting will appear much longer.

2.Having to wait before going in to an appointment feels longer than waiting during the appointment.

3.Apprehension makes the waiting time seem much longer.

4.If the customer knows beforehand how long he may have to wait, the waiting time appears to be shorter.

5.Waiting when you don’t know why always seems longer than when you have been given a reaon for the delay.

6.The greater the expected quality of the offer, the more the customer is prepared to wait.

7.Time passes more quickly if waiting in a group than when waiting alone.

One of the main points of the psychology of waiting is fairness. Even a short waiting time can put a client in a negative frame of mind if the client feels he is not being treated as fairly as others who are waiting.

An interesting experiment was carried out by the Bank of Boston which tested out two ways of influencing the psyche of those who have to wait. An electrical display monitor was installed in Bank A, which showed the news every 15 minutes. A similar display unit was placed in bank B but this displayed the expected waiting time. In each bank five things were monitored. These were the actual waiting time, the estimated waiting time, the amount of time that customers found it acceptable to wait and the overall level of customer satisfaction.

As expected, the bank customers considerably overestimated the length of time they would have to wait at the counters. The number of customers who overestimated the length of time they would have to wait dropped to 43% by installing the display monitor and to 22% by installing the clock. The number of those who thought it was an acceptable amount of time to have to wait rose slightly after the installation of both the display monitor and the clock. The fact that the bank appeared to be taking the problem of waiting time seriously, as demonstrated to customers by the installation of both displays, actually increased customer satisfaction.

Based on the experimental results and the seven principles of the psychology of waiting, here are nine tips that should be included in your sales training for all staff who interact with your customers, whether they are actively involved in sales or not.

1. Take the waiting problem very seriously. The client’s demands increase and he can become very cross about having to wait for so long. This could lead to the rejection of you or your offer.

2. Work out an acceptable waiting time for your company. Survey your internal and external clients to find out what they think is an acceptable length of time to wait and then alter the way you do business to meet this time frame.

3. Entertain your customers while they are waiting. Whilst well chosen music can produce a pleasant atmosphere in which to wait, it will not make the time spent waiting appear any shorter. A bank in the United States found a successful way of keeping its customers entertained while they were waiting – it installed a monitor which showed the daily horoscopes for all the star signs. However you decide to entertain your customers, make sure it is easy to digest and amusing!

4. Avoid queues. There is nothing that a customer finds more disagreeable than being in a queue. Instead of having your customer be in a queue, give him a piece of paper with a number on it when he first arrives – This means the client will not have to stand in a queue but will still be served when it is his turn.

5. Counteract the fact that customers overestimate waiting time massively. Inform your clients that they will have to wait for longer than the time you really think they will have to wait for. The customers will think it is a great success if you can manage to see them sooner than they expected.

6. Influence peak times. Every organisation knows when its quieter times are. Send out information informing your customers when these quiet times are – for example, the quiet time of day is between 10am and 11.30am.

7. Avoid giving your customers the impression that you are “lazy”. The customer finds nothing more annoying than having to wait when they can see a member of staff apparently doing nothing. Make sure that employees take their breaks away from the customers’ field of vision.

8. Segregate your customers. Create alternative services, such as machines and self-service counters, for your extremely impatient customers. Sometimes more impatient customers may be willing to pay a little bit extra for a faster service.

9. Be patient. Your customers’ satisfaction will not increase immediately when the improvements you have introduced start to take effect. The customer has to experience several positive aspects of your service before he changes his opinion of your company.

Whilst the above tips are mainly aimed at giving good service to external customers some of the principles can be adopted for improving internal customer care too. All managers should ensure their staff are friendly to every customer. Friendly staff can help to make up for any waiting time. If a customer has waited in a queue for 15 minutes only to encounter a sullen employee, this will only compound his negative experience. A well trained, friendly member of staff, who understands the principles of customer care as taught in sales training courses, is able to bring the matter to a more positive conclusion.

Richard Stone a Director for Spearhead Training Ltd that runs management and sales training programmes aimed at improving business performance.

Author: Guest Contributor

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