Citizen Engagement

How to manage customer queues. Hint: it’s about what you don’t see.

September 03, 2019

When you think about the word ‘customer queue’ the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t customer experience management technology. But maybe it should be?

This is a story about how one government department identified that they could solve a bigger customer-facing issue (unhappy customers due to queuing) by starting with a surprisingly common problem: the need to book meeting rooms.                                                                                                  

How to Manage Customers Queues - ACF Appointment Calendar

There are many meeting room booking solutions in the market so when this council came to us looking for a piece of technology to help them book more rooms in their newly constructed building we weren’t surprised. After all, at ACF Technologies we exist to improve customer experiences (CX) and two of the ways we do this is by helping organizations like local governments with their event booking and appointment scheduling needs.

 What we realized once we started talking to them, though, was that the need to book meeting rooms was part of a much larger challenge. With their lovely new building they had more rooms, more people on site, more customers and higher footfall. They needed a way of managing the customer experience and customer queues. We took a step back and asked them if they were prepared to take a more in-depth look at how their whole customer journey could be improved. They agreed.

 More than booking meeting rooms, their challenges included:

  • High wait times at service centers
  • Low customer satisfaction
  • Disjointed case management and a
  • Lack of reporting and insight

When we sat down together to discuss it they realized that if they could identify customer needs, give their reception staff the ability to help point customers in the right direction, and then even help identify their customers’ service needs well as their personal needs (such as disability or privacy requirements), it would go a long way to improving their CX.

Ultimately, the answer lay in how they could manage their customer queues. While the average person waiting in a queue might think there’s a simple solution: get more people to serve customers, managing customer queues is actually about not just about the service people you do see, it’s about what you don’t see. Here’s how we proposed a solution that would set them on a path towards excellent CX: by asking these four questions. 

Greeting the customer

The first and most important, question to answer is: ‘How can we help you today?’ At ACF we typically solve this problem in two ways: either by having a ‘greeter’ or using an automated solution like a kiosk where they can choose the service they need and input any essential information or special requirements they might have (for example, customers with disabilities might need appointments on the ground floor or in areas accessible by a lift). 

Communicating with the customer while they are waiting

Then we need to answer the question: how do you communicate with customers once they are in a ‘status of waiting’? People normally expect to wait at local government offices but since numerous studies such as this one show that how people feel when they wait in line often matters a lot more than the duration of the wait, it’s important to communicate with the customer during the waiting period. Effective and ongoing communication during the process will ensure a happier and more memorable customer experience.  

 How to manage customer queues - ACF Waiting Room notificationThat’s why we do things like send text messages or emails, and provide printed tickets/screens (digital signage) or get staff to communicate with customers. And if there’s a high wait time, the system can even alert a staff member to communicate the delay to the customer and to offer them alternatives, for example, they might want to book an appointment online to suit their schedule (we call this ‘channel shifting’).

Serving the customer

The third question we need to ask is: does the customer require one service or multiple services and who do they need to speak to? Different workflows need to be put in place when people have multiple challenges and it’s important that they get the right person to help them with each problem. Using technology, we can match the relevant customer’s needs with the staff member’s skills to get the issue solved quickly and efficiently. Our system doesn’t just match the customer with the most appropriate person for them to speak to, it also shows if there’s a queue for the person in question. 

Getting feedback from the customer

How do you know a customer is satisfied when they leave? You won’t know until you ask them. While surveys are sometimes frowned upon there are actually engaging and fun ways to use them as a feedback tool. Our solution lets people use customization and contextual surveys in multiple ways to collect, report on and analze data collected directly from their customers. This follow-up ensures that the customer’s needs have been met.

 Alternatively, post-event communication, like a thank you or reminder of other available services, is another way to inform customers and improve customer service. 

How can you manage customer queues by improving what customers’ can’t see?

In summary, one of the best ways to manage customer queues is by thinking about how you can give them the least painful waiting experience possible by using tools like: 

  • Self-service check-ins
  • Branded welcome kiosks
  • Wait time alerts
  • Digital signage and audio and
  • Real-time reporting 

Where to from here…

At ACF Technologies we help our government clients manage and meet their walk-in customers’ expectations and needs effectively because we strongly believe that an outstanding customer experience begins with active queue management. Our software solution allows their customers to be served in a relaxed environment while targeting expertise to match their needs, and giving managers insight into operational effectiveness.

If you would like to find out more, please get in touch by sending us an email: info@acftechnologies.com 

 

Tagged: Citizen Engagement, Customer Experience, Appointment Scheduling, Queue Management

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