Customer Wait Times Don’t Matter

Ask any customer facing professional what they are most worried about and customer wait time will be top of mind. While overly long wait times can be a driver of dissatisfaction, truth is customers don’t mind “just enough” wait time, in fact almost anything beyond that has no return on investment. The trick is finding that sweet spot.  

The other day I went to a grocery store I frequent to buy shrimp, waited my turn, asked for 2 pounds and was headed for the cashier before I was stopped by the manager. He asked “What do you think?”, after he noticed the puzzled look on my face he said “the lines are shorter now!”  He went on to brag about hiring and training staff to reduce wait times and I complimented him for his efforts.

Truth is that too many customer experience enhancements efforts involve a lot of resources but do not improve customer loyalty– here is a great article on that point. The reason for this is that they are made based on bad information, take the case of my local grocer, while it was nice of them to improve my wait time by 15 seconds, it did nothing to improve my satisfaction with the store, and even worse I didn’t notice! If you have been responsible for customer wait times whether that be service levels at a contact center, or at a brick and mortar store, you know how expensive even marginal improvement can be.

Before you commit resources to improve wait times here are a few questions you should ask yourself?

1. How big of an issue is your current wait time? Asking customers if they will like shorter wait times is no way to answer this question. Be more deliberate, for example, ask customers their feelings about current wait times, and then measure its relative importance to their loyalty. If your wait time is objectively too long, it will be apparent not only in customer feedback but in other customer behaviors. The question is where is the point of diminishing returns?

2. What will be the ROI of this reduction? When your wait time is 30 minutes, reducing it to 2 minutes has an obvious payoff, what is the payoff from 2 minutes to 45 seconds? Do your customers care?

3. What is the opportunity cost for this enhancement? Sure you can now brag about how quickly you respond, but what if you spent those resources on a topic that is more critical to your customers?

Bottom line– certainly fix chronic wait times, but before trying to eliminate all wait times, make sure at the very least your customers will notice and they will be more loyal. For someone who is familiar with the cost of improving the last mile or the last few seconds, before you make that move make sure it is worth it.

Do you agree that not all wait time is bad?