5 Minutes – How This Little Number Can Have Huge Consequences
It takes just 5 minutes to make a cup of tea, to chat to a colleague, to fire off an email or to catch up on the day’s news. It also takes just 5 minutes to lose a customer – possibly forever. This tiny number can have huge consequences for a retailer. It represents the amount of time that most people are willing to wait in a queue for service. It has consequences that go far beyond that individual customer; it influences your store operations, queue management and the stress impacts on your employees. 5 may be a low number, but it should be high on your agenda.
How Queues Impact Sales
Our research has indicated that in the UK, 75% of shoppers are willing to wait just 5 minutes before they will become dissatisfied and would consider walking out. Just 5% of consumers are willing to wait longer than 10 minutes and 15% expect to be served within just 1 minute before they will become dissatisfied.
It could be argued that Brits are especially lacking in patience. A recent study found that 5 minutes is the amount of time the average UK person will wait for a drink at a bar and they will watch a buffering webpage screen for just ten seconds before frustration kicks in.
However, queue frustration isn’t limited to the UK, of course. While UK customers are the least patient across Europe with 49% abandoning their shopping when faced with a long queue, our research also showed that in Sweden 44% of shoppers will walk out of a store if they have to wait too long, in Germany 31% and in the Netherlands the number is 25%. The potential impact on sales are clearly significant.
A further global study by payment platform Ayden found that long lines cost the retail industry a total of £284 billion in 2018. This study of almost 6000 shoppers and 2500 retail businesses discovered that long checkout lines are costing the US industry alone a total of $37.7 billion in potential sales that are either going to competitors or being abandoned altogether.
Customers Want an Online Experience, But In-store
So, what is feeding this lack of patience? The links between bricks and mortar stores and online shopping are more blurred than ever. Customers are used to instant access to their needs. In a world where we can download the latest blockbuster in seconds, have our shopping delivered to our door within hours and take advantage of no-queue click and collect services; the thought of waiting in a line of people can seem archaic.
However, it is also known that shoppers like to deal with people, and 73% in our study indicated that store staff can make or break their shopping experience. Well trained, knowledgeable and friendly store employees will help to mitigate the long queues and increase customer satisfaction.
The Role That Technology Can Play
While retailers have worked hard to reduce queue times by installing self-serve checkouts, self-scan shopping and even walk-in and walk-out payment systems (such as those offered by Amazon), the inevitable queue still exists. The key to keeping these queues as short as possible comes down to careful queue management and a recognition that it isn’t just the queue that builds frustration.
While practical and personal queue management led by shop floor managers is a great partial solution, technology can play a huge role in reducing that 5-minute wait to something that is much more acceptable.
Intelligent queue management and task management systems that deploy employees to the right place at the right time can successfully reduce waiting times without adding further staffing costs. Reflexis Real-Time Task Manager uses store-defined parameters to determine when queues have reached a tipping point and automatically advises management to act. Over time, analytics can also be used to predict times when queues tend to be longer and ensure that trained staff are available.
It may take just 5 minutes for your customer to leave their shopping and walk out, but it could take just seconds to react to a long queue. Which will you choose?
What is it about queuing…?
• Shoppers are increasingly building their shopping needs into their already busy workday. A shopping trip may be squeezed into a lunch break or on the way home. Knowing you are missing your only break, or your precious family time can make a queue feel worse than it is.
• Time spent doing nothing feels a lot longer than when we are occupied. Queues force us to stand and get bored, seemingly for no good reason.
• A wait that is unexplained will feel longer and more frustrating than one that has been explained or is obvious. The simple act of an apology and an explanation (plus an indication of when they will be served) can go a long way to reducing annoyance.