In my interaction with various service organisations, ‘waiting time’ is one of the commonest and hottest topics of discussion. Be it in customer satisfaction surveys, for improving system efficiency or for resource planning, this one metric keeps playing havoc in senior management’s mind. Surprisingly, ‘waiting time’ is a cause for concern, irrespective of the size of business !! So, does this metric behave in a manner which is independent of business size ? Seems to be ….. even inefficiency probably has no causal co-relation to business size.
Maybe smaller organizations talk about this to ‘feel big’ and hence get a sense of ‘busyness’ and/or to show that they have also ‘arrived’ and hence to be counted in ‘big league !! I have also seen cases where it was pre-designed to keep a certain number customers waiting, to give a feeling of ‘booming business’ or waiting rooms are designed small to give an illusion of ‘being full’ ….. empty rooms or rooms with sufficiently comfortable sitting space could send a message that business is slow.
Whatever be the context, waiting ‘created by design’ or just ‘happening’ to a service set up, is definitely not good for customer satisfaction. Apart from the ‘intentional by design’ creation of waiting time, there could be build up of the same due to ‘inefficiency’ of the process flow/design or a genuine outcome of the sequence and number of steps involved. While the former needs a process relook/redesign, the latter maybe a necessary ‘effect’ of process due diligence.
There are healthcare services, for example, where it imperative to go through a sequence of tests/observations ….. these could take time and it is advisable not to short circuit or cut short this process. The benefits of such a process due diligence far outweigh the discomfort/dissatisfaction a patient may experience while waiting. There are examples of excellence in detailed examination in healthcare setups, where patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes, both are extremely high. In such cases, it may be better to define it as ‘time taken’ in examination, rather than ‘waiting time’ that is long. But here also, it may be advisable to audit process flow for ‘bottlenecks’ to bring about continuous improvement in queuing, sequencing, work flow, workstation design and layout, so that at no point in the examination, does ‘waiting time’ become an issue.
There are, however, direct implications on customer satisfaction levels in any case. Whatever be the situation, a proper root cause analysis of the process design and flow can bring about significant improvements effectively and efficiently. Justplainandsimple Consulting offers ‘root cause analysis and solutions’ that help identify the core issue in a very speedy manner, involving key stakeholders in the process. The result is an in depth exercise that peeps into all dimensions of an issue and creates an organization wide acceptance and alignment at the same time. The process is based on Rudyard Kipling’s philosophy of deep questioning to unveil the root cause : “I keep six honest serving men and they taught me all I know. Their names are what and why and where : And how and who and when”.
However, while root cause analysis and designing an efficient process flow are extremely important, what organizations still do not realize is the significance and power of ‘Customer Love’. Bringing genuine love to the situation will make customers forget inconvenience and discomfort, even if they have to wait due to unavoidable reasons. Very few organizations would speak to customers waiting in a queue ….. to just say a word of love or to just explain what caused the delay or how much more time it will take for their turn or to just have a courtesy chat asking about their health/weather or even offer a glass of plain water ….. Unfortunately, in our society plagued by greed and hate, love has become a dirty and out of place ‘softy’ word, compared to ‘hard’ numbers like ROI. But words of love, showing genuine concern for a customer while she has had to wait, will go a long way in making her forget any discomfort or even assuage pain while in a hospital waiting room.
Simple genuine, loving and tender care from the heart can ease out so many stressful situations ….. Don’t people wait in long queues at religious places ? It is love and passion for God that makes the wait so bearable and a ‘Celebration and Blissful Revelry’ for many !!
A few simple tips that can always help while merits of root cause analysis and its impact on process flow efficiencies are being debated by senior management :
- Don’t let customers feel invisible. Acknowledge walk-up customers immediately – even if it’s only to say, “Thanks for coming in. I’ll be able to help you in just a moment.” People will be more willing to wait patiently if you act like you know they’re there.
- When customers are lined up waiting to be served, avoid the cold and impersonal “Next!” Instead, make eye contact with the next person in line, smile, and nod your head. Most people will understand that as an invitation to step forward. If you can’t make eye contact, try saying, “May I help the next person?”
- Respect the customer’s time. Never, ever make them wait for anything without offering an explanation, an apology, and an alternative to waiting.
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