Stand in line: Improve your checkouts or lose your customer loyalty

Study shows businesses need to work harder to reduce checkout friction and annoyances to keep the loyalty of their customers.

Competition is fierce and customer loyalty is fleeting at best so when it comes to retail stores, the customer experience is more important than ever. But according to the findings of research issued by Qmatic UK Ltd, the British are expecting more when it comes to the checkout customer journey in-store.

At the forefront of this battle is reducing queueing friction at checkouts and service desks and therefore cutting customer waiting time for service.

How long will you wait?

According to the Qmatic research only 18 per cent of us are now happy to spend ten minutes or more waiting to pay at a till in-store – in fact the average wait time for the overwhelming majority of British consumers is now 7.7 minutes. Speed is now of the essence and reducing friction in-store needs to be at the heart of any customer service operation.

Vanessa Walmsley, managing director of Qmatic UK Ltd, states, ‘The race is on to offer a unique experience tailored to the individual consumer that encourages them to buy more products and services, whilst strengthening customer loyalty and creating a greater sense of brand solidarity. At the centre of this lies the checkout and just how a customer service operation manages this most fraught of interactions in the customer journey.’

Length matters

The research conducted by Qmatic also finds that consumers dislike any more than five people in front of them and it is now regarded as totally unacceptable by three quarters of the population, with some 48 per cent simply giving up and leaving. Retailers need to reduce this friction in-store by offering other ways to check-out or receive the service they need such as self-service points, virtual queuing processes and mobile applications.

Vanessa continues, ‘We undertook this research to try and identify the personalities of the British at this critical payment friction point. Each and every one of us has to wait to be served at some stage and our behaviour defines us as individuals. In this ‘always-on’ consumer world we now live in, retailers, the NHS and the public sector all have to be awake to the fact that attitudes to waiting patiently have dramatically changed and customer expectations need to be addressed.’

More than ever before, success in the retail market depends on being able to offer an exceptional customer experience that is unique and more attractive than the competition. An experience that empowers customers so that they can decide the best way to interact with a brand. Every opportunity should deliver exactly what the customer wants. This delivery needs to be synchronised across in-store and digital offerings to provide a holistic view of the brand.

‘We found that not only do we not like standing in-line patiently, we actively dislike those people who push in, those who invade our personal space and those customer service operations that appear to be non-responsive to increases in demand.

‘It is not as if consumers don’t have choices: they do. So for both private and public sector organisations that put customer service at the heart of their operation, understanding consumer behaviour will be critical and delivering solutions that reduce friction throughout the customer journey,’ continues Vanessa.

Key findings

· The top three characteristics people associate with being British are cups of tea (52 per cent), talking about the weather (38 per cent) and queuing (37 per cent)
· 81 per cent of the sample stated that they would wait up to ten minutes to be served at a checkout; the average wait time for many consumers only being 7.7 minutes in total
· Men will wait an average of 7.3 minutes, women appear to be more tolerant -happy to wait just over 8 minutes
· Selecting a checkout queue is now an art form. 27 per cent of us select based on its length, 27 per cent always go to a manned till and 24 per cent are now always opting for self-service
· 35 per cent of UK consumers are convinced that Returns Desks are the longest queues followed by retail customer services coming in at 28 per cent and retail banking customer services desks also at 28 per cent
· If the queue in front has more than five people in it, 76 per cent of us will simply give up and leave
· 52 per cent of the sample stated that queue-jumpers were their biggest pet hate when standing in line, followed by invasion of personal space (34 per cent) and closed tills or customer service desks (24 per cent)
· British reserve is under strain with over 41 per cent of us happy to call out a queue jumper; 29 per cent happy to tut and sigh, and a staggering 58 per cent likely to just leave an existing queue to find another

Psychologist Donna Dawson, says, ‘The research shows that management cannot afford to be complacent in the face of customer queuing and the advances in mobile phone technology. For example, where a customer has experienced mobile payments and checkouts in a competing store, he/she will be less likely to queue for any length of time in your store for the same product or service.

‘Customers will simply vote with their feet and go where the service is quicker and more convenient. Although at the moment mobile phone technology is mostly being taken up by younger customers, no company can take for granted the speed at which all customers will soon take it up, in order to improve their shopping experience and to save on precious time.’

Vanessa concludes, ‘Providing a seamless customer experience, regardless of whether this is an online journey or a physical one is essential. Understanding and managing this omni-channel customer journey is key in delivering improved customer experience and brand loyalty in the retail sector. By partnering with a vendor who understands the fundamentals behind the customer journey, retailers can enhance the overall experience for their customers.’

Further reading on checkout processes

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

Related Topics

Customer Loyalty