I once read that customers who walk into a premises and want to be served expect to be acknowledged within 15-30 seconds. It’s 15 second when the person is in a hurry and 30 when they have a little more time.
People may think this is unique to one particular industry sector. However, it stems across all types of companies from hospitality, retail and any other business with a check-in or reception area.
As a trainer, I am always interested in hearing the opinions and experiences of people. So, when I bring up this topic in workshops, delegates will often tell me that customers need to have more patience and wait their turn when staff are busy.
Practically speaking, I agree there will be times when an employee is talking on the phone or serving someone else when we arrive into a business, so we know there will be a delay. Yet, human nature is that people will only wait a certain amount of time before they feel neglected.
When I probe trainees more about how they handle these situations, sometimes they tell me they don’t look up because the person waiting will grab their attention and demand to be served.
I appreciate staff can be under a lot of pressure. However, ignoring the customer will have a negative impact. Most of the time people react because they have been left waiting for far longer than 30 seconds.
Interestingly, all we need to do is to briefly look up and smile. It only takes a second or two and we can continue to look after the person standing in front of us. By quickly catching the waiting parties’ eye, we can signal that we see them with a little wave. We can also mouth “one moment” or even a simple “hello”. Once the customer knows they have been seen, they will be a lot more patience.
I watched this roll out on several occasions. Next time you are in a bar and waiting to be served, pay attention to the way the bar staff are managing the queue and watch the different reactions
You will often encounter a barperson who only looks at the customer directly ahead of them and never glances left or right along the busy queue of people waiting. Every so often a few people waiting will lean over the bar hoping to grab the staff member’s attention. They do this because they feel they haven’t been seen and begin to worry.
In contrast to this, you will meet the clever and observant server who sporadically glances up and down the bar. They may be busy taking care of the person standing in front of them. Yet they regularly smile and catch the eye of others waiting. On these occasions, the waiting customers are a lot more patient. They know they have been seen and calmly wait their turn.
Every time I share this story in training, people tell me they have experienced similar situations.
In essence, we need to remember we can’t do anything about the fact we have people standing in front of us waiting. However, it’s empowering to know we can manage the customer’s expectation and therefore the mood of the encounter.