Merchandising-Customer waiting experience

Hate to Wait

Turning customer wait time into opportunity

America’s attention span changed when “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” aired in 1968. For those of you who are old enough to remember this show, it was radical in its short bursts of visual and spoken jokes. 

Up until “Laugh-In,” camera shots were much longer, but the show’s producers discovered that people reacted quickly to 2-8 second jokes. Advertising agencies caught on and created television ads that may have 15-20 visual changes in a 30-second commercial. 

While it was once taken as fact that the average attention span of a person in the U.S. is about eight seconds — one second shorter than a goldfish — that has been disproven. We can focus longer, but the message works best in a storytelling format — something that captures our attention and imagination. 

When customers are waiting for help in your service or parts area, you have a great opportunity to tell them stories and create a better customer/spa store experience. I’m guessing many of you reading this column feel the same way when you are at a car dealership or in an endless check-out line.

When customers are waiting for help in your service or parts area, you have a great opportunity to tell them stories and create a better customer/spa store experience.”

Linda Cahan

I was at the service counter of a car dealership, and while I was waiting, there was an iPad playing a 90-second video about a new product that cleans and preserves vinyl interiors. It was clever, with decent background music, told the story about how and why it was invented and explained why it’s different from other products. By the time it was my turn to check out, I had picked up a bottle of the stuff for $9.95 and happily added that to my purchase. 

Retailers know the power of checkout countertop merchandise sales. If you’ve ever been stuck in a long line at Best Buy or Bed, Bath & Beyond, you’ve been routed through small gondolas filled with “pick-up” merchandise that is designed to entice you. 

We are all aware of this manipulation by now and can find it annoying. But what if your customers can see a lineup of “What’s new now” products while waiting for service or to check out? It can be interesting and compelling. 

If your spa manufacturer is introducing a new line or feature, a short video is a great way to inform customers while they wait. Some of your customers may want to download a video from a QR code link to a website; others will be happy to watch the video on a screen. Always have a sign to indicate how long a video is so your customer can know whether to stick around to see the ending or keep moving on.

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If you have a large monitor in a waiting area, consider a loop video with a combination of helpful hints for maintaining a spa unit with new vendor-sponsored products introduced between the helpful tips. If you have an idea of how long people must wait for a part, service or help, you can coordinate the video loop length to it.

Hating to wait goes for getting help as well. Of course, you can never predict when people are going to come through the door. When you’re busy and people are waiting for help, whoever is at the counter needs to acknowledge the customers. 

Just being seen can help someone who is feeling impatient. Often, people in a line are wondering “Does this person have any idea that other people are waiting for help?” When the person behind the desk looks up, smiles and holds up one (appropriate) finger, everyone knows they are seen and will start to calm down. 

If you hate to wait, imagine what happens when customers come in with children. The average time they can shop is about 10 minutes before the kids get antsy — or worse. Few parents will leave their child unsupervised in a store, but when they do, it’s dangerous for the children and your insurance. 

If you have a small area you can carve out in the back of your store away from chemicals and doors that lead outside, consider a kid’s room with a mix of building blocks, coloring sheets and a small TV. It’s wise to install carpet tiles in this area; buy 20% more than you need, so you can switch them out when stains occur.

If parents are comfortable leaving their children there, you’ll have their undivided attention for far longer than 10 minutes. Ideally, there should be a clear visual of the room, so the parents can be reassured their children are safe.

If lines tend to form in your water testing area, consider asking people to take a number as they do at deli counters. Once someone has their number and is reassured that whoever is calling out the numbers is loud enough to be heard, they can wander around your store and shop instead of impatiently waiting in a line.

There is a trend to use hand-held devices for a quick and easy mobile checkout. The plus to this is convenience and especially speed if you have an indecisive customer. The minus is once they’ve checked out and put their card back into their wallet, they feel the shopping experience is over. Make sure they don’t check out until they’ve seen and purchased the accessories needed to seasonalize their unit as well as chemicals and other add-on goodies you’d like to sell.

Don’t make customers hate to wait. Instead, make it fun, educational and stress-free.