Business Watch: Overcoming the nuisance of long waiting times
Waiting time, also known as turnaround time is defined as the period of time between when an action is requested or mandated and when it occurs (Wikipedia). Long waiting times has reeked through the delivery of service for most businesses and customers are made to carry the burden. Across all industries, customers are subjected to huge and sometimes unnecessary delays in a bid to access services they have paid for. In most situations, the reasons for such delays are flimsy and can easily be rectified. You enter the waiting areas of most local businesses and the look on every customer’s face is that of utter disdain because they are obviously enduring long waiting periods.
Some of our high street banks have constantly strived to maintain average turnaround time to not more than 5 minutes, but this feat has barely been achieved. You visit your local bank to pay in a few cedis into your account and end up waiting for 15-20minutes to get that done. A lot of my readers would agree that delays may occur even when banking halls are not packed.
Businesses which seek to go the extra mile with service delivery and constantly win with their customers must rise up to this challenge and cut down on the huge delays.
Here are three means by which this could be achieved.
Culture of Alertness
Poor employee alertness is one of the causes of long waiting times across most service delivery points. Both the “loyal” and “somewhat undependable” employees fall short of the trait of alertness. In most businesses, customers would endure long waiting times in the presence of unconcerned employees who seem rather to be engaged in minor tasks or mere conversations; perhaps because they are not responsible for delivering that particular required service, or requests have left their desks so they have apparently “done their bit”. Businesses should train and encourage employees to become increasing alert. An alertness culture is built on the premise that individual employee responsibilities are interdependent in giving total satisfaction to customers. Under such a culture all employees work hand in hand to offer complete service to customers. Overall waiting time is reduced with greater alertness from all players to ensure the customer is served within time, instead of leaving it to the few who apparently are responsible. Additionally ensuring a strict FOLLOW-UP procedure is crucial to building alertness among employees. This principle states that even when an employee’s task is completed, they are expected to follow-up on customer requests with other colleagues who have a role to play to ensure the customer is completely served.
Employee alertness and becoming each other’s keeper will ensure good reductions in waiting times and hence promote greater customer satisfaction.
Timeliness in Service Delivery
Coupled with the above, long waiting times is a direct result of poor timeliness on the part of staff or just by the nature of some work process. When I visit certain businesses, I sometimes feel as if I’m the only person who is time conscious. I have observed that in as much as cashiers are expected to be cautious to minimize errors, the time it takes for some of them to serve individual customers leaves much to be desired. Likewise you visit certain restaurants looking forward to a quick meal and may end up waiting almost an hour, if not more to be served. I visited a newly opened Chinese restaurant a few years back to try out a meal and ended up waiting for more than an hour for a simple Chinese meal to take away. I decided there and then not to visit the restaurant again, and more so the food was nothing to write home about. This particular restaurant could not survive and shut down just after a year of opening.
Frequently provide on-the-job training for employees which should be geared towards maintaining a culture of time consciousness. Speed in service can also be encouraged by setting employee targets through a performance management system to effectively measure waiting times and provide incentives for employees who meet desirable targets.
Additionally frequent assessment of work processes would help to identify duplicated tasks if any, and simplify work processes.
Delegation & Shared Responsibility
Some employees may be burdened with just too much to do which may result in slow pace of work and inability to attend to waiting customers on a timely basis. I visited a local high street bank for an account opening form and was directed to take the form from the account opening officer. Unfortunately this officer was inundated with work and had about six individuals waiting to be served. However I could see about three (3) other staff seemingly doing less. I waited for close to thirty minutes for a simple form. I believe the officer had too much to shoulder and could do with some assistance, hence creating undue delays for customers. This is a typical instance of a situation which calls for delegation of some duties or shared responsibility between her and another employee.
Most customers who endure long waiting periods may not expressly complain but such experiences are likely to create negative impressions on service experience and the image of your company. The perception a customer has about your business is a huge determinant of their preparedness to continue to do business with you.
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