customer service
Customer Service is a critical function of any successful business. Usually we focus on customer once we attend them. In this article we will discover that customer experience starts earlier.

Customers walk away because of long wait time

Everyone has seen it and done it. I cannot count the number of times that I decided to take my shopping elsewhere or do it at other times after seeing the long wait lines at the checkout counters. It was particularly irritating when seeing other store clerks seemingly busy on something else instead of tending to the customers. Some stores showed their empathy to the queued up customers, but they were mostly spontaneous acts. One famous episode which probably was among the front runners of wait time services took place when Vladimir Horowitz, regarded as the piano deity of classical music for decades, announced his return recital in 1965 following a retirement of 12 years. After seeing fans lining up for hours outside Carnegie Hall to buy his concert tickets, Wanda, Horowitz’s wife, bought and handed out coffees to the waiting admirers. Imagine what his fans felt. Unfortunately, that was a standalone feat, an unscripted affair without being widely heralded and replicated for a long time to come.

Service starts the moment the customers arrive

Customers can make their arrivals online, on the phone, or in person. What business needs is to start engaging the customers when they appear to prevent them from losing interest. This has proven to be a challenge particularly to brick-and-mortar retail stores. It is especially difficult when the customers have far out-numbered the employees. But there exists at least one business that has actually excelled at this situation and has leveraged this experience eloquently to advance its customer loyalty and advocacy. Businesses cannot rely on spontaneous overtures anymore; instead they must have this designed into their complete service packages. 

Passive wait time services are standard

Industries have been trying to address customer wait times for decades, and many measures have become customary in their industries. Medical and dental clinics normally have three things in their waiting rooms, toy sets, story books, and magazines, so that both juniors and adults can be occupied while they wait. Car shops have magazines and frequently coffees on the house for customers to wait for their repairs. Some stores have electronic monitors displaying the ticket # being served, some have muted or low volume TV to entertain, some even let customers know their approximate wait times. But all these are just passive maneuvers aimed to alleviate the negative waiting connotations, businesses should really try to take opportunity of the waiting period to render a customer experience so compelling that customers actually treasure their wait times.

A wowing wait time customer service phenomenon has been born

Hai Di Lao has grown from a single shop in 1994 into a major Chinese diner phenomenon today with over 80 branches in China’s major cities, and has expanded to Singapore and Los Angeles in 2012. Aside from the high food hygiene standard, medium pricing strategy, and extraordinarily pampering customer service during meal times, this brand has surpassed its competitions in their wait time service in the dining industry beyond comprehension. In fact, it has been executing its wait time services so well that many customers feel that their wait times are actually the best part of their entire dining experiences in this eatery. 

Hai Di Lao showcases extravagant wait time services

Hai Di Lao regards a dining experience as one starting when the customers arrive rather than after they are seated. They built multiple waiting sections to satisfy people of all ages. They have space for chess and board games for those who want to play, they have a nursery with cribs for small children to rest, they have playgrounds for the active kids to have fun, they have manicures for ladies to have their nails done, they provide shoe-shines and shoulder massages to all, they offer drinks beyond just coffee and tea, they hand out snacks to those who would like to nibble while they chat or wait, and they have computers for others who need to get online. All these are provided on the house. Because of these indulgences architected to cater to any age group, Hai Di Lao has become China’s most favorable dining place for reunions and big gathering events. Indeed, its total feasting experience has been so overwhelmingly gratifying that most of its customers have turned into dedicated fans and proponents ever since their first visits.

The key is to design in the wait time service experience

The key is to architect wait time service into a business’s total service offers. Industries must not see wait time service as a necessary evil to conduct business; instead they should genuinely embrace this as an opportunity to build a unique and compelling experience to soar up customer satisfactions and dedications. A passive implementation will not make waiting customers happy, only actively crafted services can hope to turn customers’ wait time anxiety into delightful preludes.

Conclusion

Most businesses have been ignoring or passively addressing customer needs while they wait for service. This model and mind set is obsolete. A Chinese diner has grown into an international presence not by its high hygiene standards, pleasant stewards, mid level pricing, and indulging eating luxuries albeit they are all important factors, but through its exorbitant complimentary customer services dispensed while customers wait. They definitely were not the first who provided wait time service, but they were the ones who have perfected it. Businesses that are serious to build loyal fans and followers must take note of this canteen’s service innovations, and construct their versions of wait time service to thrive above and beyond their competitions.

Here is a video, for helpling you complete understanding this customer-centric culture:

Chi-Pong Wong is a seasoned thought leader in program management, customer experience, and supply chain strategy. He is an influencer on several LinkedIn groups and has published on leading online magazines including Project Times, PM Hut, Project Management, Customer Think, ServiceDirectors.org Business Review, UX Matters, Supply Chain Brain, and other popular journals. He earned a MA in Economics at SUNY @ Stony Brook, and a MS in Computer Science at Duke University. He has worked previously at Arrow Electronics, IBM, STMicroelectronics, NEC Electronics, and is currently with Hewlett-Packard. He can be reached at Linkedin