Extreme weather conditions, weak cups of tea and rail replacement buses are just a few typical revulsions of the average Brit today. What can really put us in a bad mood, however, is a, long queue – there’s nothing worse. Us Brits are famed for our logical, well-mannered approach to forming an orderly queue, but SME owners should never be fooled by the steely exterior of the queuing Brit.
When it comes to waiting to buy goods or services, even the most patient among us are quick to abandon ship, which obviously has a knock-on effect on the business in question.
Recently at First Data, we undertook some research into queuing and found that lining up single file to purchase a product or service exasperates Brits so much so that 7 out of 10 of us would walk out the door and abandon a purchase if they had to wait in a longer than acceptable (which is on average of 8.3 minutes) to buy.
What’s more worrying than the impatience of queuing customers, is the fact that over a third of SMEs (34 per cent) have no effective strategy in place to deal with lots of customers and growing queues.
While a buzzing store, or a constantly ringing phone is music to any SME owner’s ears – it’s clear many just don’t know how to cope with the sudden influx of customers at such busy times. Its crucial small business owners think carefully about how not to lose customers who want to buy. If custom is being lost for this reason, there is a real need to change tack before significant sales are lost due to disgruntled queuing customers.
But without hiring a team of staff the size of a football team (which would be a big investment!), what can SMEs do to minimise lengthy queues at peak times for the business?
Utilise ‘queue-busting’ mobile tech
Tech is increasingly making our personal lives easier, whether its smartphones, connected cars or augmented reality. That being said, I often wonder why busy SME owners don’t look to technology from the outset to make their working lives easier and enable the business to run more efficiently? The innovation is there, it’s up to businesses to utilise it.
Three quarters (78 per cent) of SME owners acknowledge that asking customers to wait longer is unacceptable but don’t know how to handle it. Unsurprisingly 49 per cent of SMEs think a rise in customer demand can only be solved by hiring more staff. This is not the only option – hiring more staff is often not a cost-effective or practical solution, there are many business tasks that tech can handle for you.
‘Machines are stealing our jobs’ is a phrase thrown about all too often across many industries but actually new technology has freed up time for us to do what we do best – using our brains for more valuable tasks like growing of business! For SMEs, technology (like the Clover mobile or mini!) can take on the mundane day-to-day tasks like stocktaking, invoicing and time sheets so business owners can spend their valuable time getting to know their customers better.
Today, mobile POS technology has advanced significantly – it’s portable and also become the hub of a business, offering lots of useful data insights. For example, having access to business and customer data enables the SME owner to understand where stock is missing and staffing is lacking.
Not only can mobile tech help on the operational side by cutting down queues, it can also offer great insight to your business with its ability to analyse customer data and behaviour patterns.
From previous research, First Data finds that 42 per cent of SMEs go ‘on feel’ rather than using data to understand their customer. Therefore, it is no surprise SME owners only admitted to knowing their customers only ‘fairly well’. If you don’t know your customers buying behaviour inside out – how will you know to be prepared for the busy times, or even the quiet times?
‘Gut feeling’ might be ok when choosing what to have for lunch, but when you have a business to run, targets to hit and staff to support, you need to take a more educated stance. If a business wasn’t aware of the peaks in customer visits such as when local workers typically break for coffee, how would they know how many staff to put on shifts to cope with such influx? Data insights can help businesses pin point when and why they are likely to be busy, giving managers the lead time to be prepared for the imminent influx of customers.
Give your customers the service they deserve
Consumers today are spoilt for choice. Not only do they have ample choice on the high street, competition online has meant that seamless customer experience is a must. When shopping online for products or services, consumers are used to the streamlined ‘one click’ service. This quality of service is not being replicated in brick-and-mortar stores on the high street. This needs to change in order for our high street business to survive. Rather than competing with technology, it is vital to use it to your advantage.
Small businesses have competitors up and down – their neighbour on the high street as well as the big chains and the online giants. In order to stand out from the rest and create a profitable business, with a loyal customer base SMEs must be encouraged to refine their affairs by turning to technology. Mobile tech will help to tackle queues and ensure you capture the custom of the time-poor high street consumer.
It’s a no brainer – queues are a sign of a popular business. However, an off-putting in-store experience may prevent repeat business from customers and loyalty is well versed as being crucial to success.
Queues can quickly undo the hard work that has gone into attracting so many customers – but this can be managed. With mobile tech SMEs can tackle those unappealing queues before they become a bugbear. At the same time, they can learn a thing or two about their business by being able to dive into useful insights. Your business can be popular, busy and make profit whilst banishing queues – to the delight of your customers, using mobile tech.
Raj Sond is general manager at First Data.