Consumers Tired of Waiting (No Joke)

Discussion
Mar 25, 2009

By George Anderson

The piece is from The Onion so it
is intended as a joke but the message is not far from the truth. As far
as many (most) people are concerned, everything takes too long.

Consider this
fake research attributed to a poll from CBS and The New York
Times
(with RetailWire edits), "Americans are split into three separate
camps when it comes to the growing national frustration: Those who think
everything is taking too long; those who think everything is taking too
g-d long; and a third fringe group that believes everything is taking f-ing
forever."

As
one fictional character standing in line at Rite Aid said, "Oh, for
crying out loud. Open up another register if you have to. What are these
people doing? Hanging out?"

Discussion Questions: How big a factor is
time in consumers’ decisions where to buy products across a wide range
of retailing channels both off and online? What can or is being done
to save shoppers time while generating money for merchants?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

19 Comments on "Consumers Tired of Waiting (No Joke)"


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Don Longo
Guest
Don Longo
13 years 1 month ago

Customers are tired of waiting in line–and many are walking out. Worse, about one-third of those who walk, according to Maritz Research, are telling their friends and family about that bad experience.

Half of the 1,400 adults polled by Maritz Research last year said they left a convenience store at least once due to long wait times, and two out of 10 of those people said they were unlikely to return to that store.

The respondents expect to wait an average of 3.3 minutes in a c-store, but are more patient during rush hours, when they said it is reasonable to wait six minutes.

Our Consumer Trends Senior Editor Barb Francella recently devoted an entire column to the study, if you’re interested.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
13 years 1 month ago

I have always believed that there is a big difference between waiting to be served and waiting for someone to notice that you need to be served.

Waiting is a fact of life and I think people are generally okay with it as long as they are made to feel that some form of attention is being paid to them. For example, when you approach a sales counter and the staff behind it are busy, do they ignore you or let you know they will be with you in just a moment? This small action can make a huge difference between waiting and “waiting f-ing forever.”

Pradip V. Mehta, P.E.
Guest
Pradip V. Mehta, P.E.
13 years 1 month ago

I do not know about others but unless the price difference is significant, time is the deciding factor in where I buy. As one gets older, one values time more because there is less and less left to do what you want to do. When it comes to time, most retailers have yet to learn how to respect customers by respecting their time, whether on phone or in person in stores.

Phil Rubin
Guest
Phil Rubin
13 years 1 month ago

The American public are especially impatient. Just look at the scrutiny of the new President, not even 75 days in office.

Most retailers are, however, very mindful of speed-of-service. In fact, when stores recognize customers’ impatience and are at least empathetic, a negative experience can easily be turned into a good one.

This issue hinges on two things: not overcomplicating what happens at “checkout” and proper store management. The former is a headquarters responsibility and the latter is simply having store managers spending more time on the floor so they can–yes, manage–the situations that arise leading to these frustrations.

This is not rocket science, though at times, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone were a bit more patient?!?

David Dorf
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

While working with a specialty retailer recently, they made it clear that speed at checkout was very important to them. The checkout process was to be bounded by the interaction with the customer, not the speed of the POS. It doesn’t take a huge investment to perform a usability study, and the benefits in terms of labor savings and customer satisfaction are huge.

I have personally abandoned carts when the process took too long. The retailers that consistently serve me quickly get my business, even if the price is a little higher.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
13 years 1 month ago
“What can or is being done to save shoppers time while generating money for merchants?” Save the shoppers TIME and they will come back and buy more from your store. How? More staff = more customer service. One can review several of the recent discussions on this site and see references to “time” being a factor. It is not only a factor because of the more hectic lives we lead, but because we are being trained by time-saving alternatives. Start with the internet. The slowest retail site is likely faster than getting in a car and going to a brick and mortar location. How often do we wait to make a deposit or get cash at the bank? Almost never. Lunch? We don’t even have to get out of our cars, we can go to the drive through. Don’t like the line at the supermarket? Order your groceries online and have them delivered. Don’t want to spend an hour watching your favorite TV show? Record it, skip the commercials and get it done in 40… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
Carol Spieckerman
13 years 1 month ago
Time is THE most important factor influencing shopper behavior; after all, if a shopper runs out of time and leaves the store, the best marketing in the world won’t be able to reach out and drag her back in. Retailers know this and are approaching the opportunity in various ways. The “On second thought, I have all the time in the world” strategy: Best Buy is incubating a plan that will turn its stores into experiential playgrounds. Risky from a time perspective unless compelling enough to get something else crossed off the shopper’s “mission” list for that day. The “Get the hell out of my way!” strategy: Walmart’s new merchandising approaches, including, “win, play, show,” have time considerations at their core. Removing obstacles to traffic flow (bye, bye action alley carnival; we won’t miss ya!), and ensuring that the categories shoppers (and Walmart) care most about are out loud and proud and easy to find. The “I’ll let you know if I need anything” strategy: Canandian Tire’s “Smart Stores” carefully balance automated solutions (bulk item… Read more »
Kevin Graff
Guest
13 years 1 month ago
Time is now, and has always been, a big factor in a shopper’s decision of where to shop. Consider the plight of downtown retailers who suffer from inadequate parking, so customers stay away because it will take too much ‘time’ to park and walk to the store. Or the mall that is too big to walk. The line up too long to wait. There are trade offs, of course. We’ll pay more at the corner store because it saves us time. Yet, we’re prepared to line up for 10 or more minutes at Costco to save a buck. We’re even prepared to take longer going through security at the airport if we perceive it makes flying safer. The real issue is when retailers don’t meet the time expectations of consumers. When consumers witness indifference on the part of staff, or incompetence on the part of management, they lose it. As well they should. The old saying “in everything you do, remember the customer’s point of view” needs to resonate more with retailers. Walk faster, open… Read more »
Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
13 years 1 month ago

I have seen people walk out of stores because of long waits or no service. What’s interesting is that I’ve seen customers leave just a tube of toothpaste or a cart full of hundreds of dollars of merchandise. The ‘wait’ seems to be final straw on the camel’s back and can negate any exceptional service the customer received anywhere else. I think this serves as a reminder that we cannot forget the front end.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
13 years 1 month ago

Truly we have become a society of impatient people. As retailers we need to focus our energies on improving any of our systems that require the customer to wait: POS systems, automated telephone routing systems, online check out, etc. As people, we need to focus our energies on learning to relax already!

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
13 years 1 month ago

Time equals convenience, and convenience is second only to price in driving most consumer purchases. And it extends beyond just time spent in checkout lines. It’s the volume of traffic getting to the store, the tie-ups getting into the parking lot, the difficulty finding a parking spot, and we’re not even in the store yet.

Obviously, a merchant has little control over these external things, beyond site selection. What they do have control over is what happens in the store. For the consumer, anything that inhibits their ability to get in and out quickly is a big negative. The challenge for retailers is to develop those enticements that will cause the customer to stop and linger….

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
13 years 1 month ago
As I am supposing that this discussion will reflect consumers decisions and attitudes; I can only give you my own. I do some research before buying anything of significance. I generally know the features and “fair price” of an item before I buy. I do not count on “store personnel” to assist me in that they seldom know as much about a product as my research has revealed. The only time I feel frustrated at retail is when an employee doesn’t have enough sense not to say NO. Never say NO. If you can’t do what the customer wants find another excuse. “Mr. Jones we could have met that price but we have sold our last one and the new inventory will come in at a higher price. However, if you would consider ______ we can make it available at the price you were looking for and I’ll deliver it free.” Time is relative and a bad experience depends on lack of interaction. “Waiting” is asking a consumer to waste their time.
Mel Kleiman
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

Great research, especially based on the discussion yesterday about how people’s perception of themselves influences the answers about what they tell the researchers. As I said yesterday, most of what we get are polls and not research.

This item points out two things. One, if you had not told us this was not serious research, most people would take it as gospel and in a few weeks–or maybe in a few years–speakers would keep reporting the data as fact. Two, even though there is nothing behind the story but good writing, look at all of the serious discussion you are getting about time to serve.

Vivek Pathak
Guest
Vivek Pathak
13 years 1 month ago

I believe individual’s perceived value of their time is incorrectly judged as it is based on short-term experience and emotions rather than long-term hard facts. For example, consumers frequently give up opportunities to save since it takes “too much” time to search for sales or coupons. Yet if they are told that they can save (e.g. $190/week on grocery for family of four [Source – USDA]), I believe their perception would change.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
13 years 1 month ago

Best example of an entire channel wasting customers’ time: drug chains. I have been in a lot of Walgreens’ and CVS’ stores over the years and rarely NOT had to wait.

On the other hand, Chase bank has new technology that allows customers to feed checks into ATMs without deposits. And some department store associates have been known to deliver items for top shoppers, saving them an entire trip.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
13 years 1 month ago

Consumers have been pretty consistent in that they don’t like waiting, either in the physical store (e.g., checkout, inability to find associates on the store floor) or online (e.g., slow page loading). And merchants have responded over the years with a variety of ways to speed up various aspects of the shopping experience, e.g., self-checkout, line-busting schemes, price-check scanners in the aisles and self-ordering kiosks. Not all the efforts have been without controversy, e.g., timing cashiers to speed more folks through the checkout.

Today’s consumers place a high value on their time, largely because of a lack of time or a perceived lack of time. Merchants that prove to shoppers that they respect the consumer’s time stand a better chance of growing loyalty–at a minimum, increasing stickiness. And that can be done in a variety of ways, like tech apps or simply opening a new lane when the current checkout lanes get too long. Shoppers are armed with plenty of choices. Why put up with slow service when other choices are conveniently at hand?

Brent Streit Streit
Guest
Brent Streit Streit
13 years 1 month ago
This is a great thread and very funny. We definitely needed that. I guess I’ve become so jaded that I don’t even bother managing stores as a customer anymore. I was at Walgreens the other day and there were three associates at the register. One ringing customers up and the other two talking. My new filter assumed there was training going on or a change of shifts or somebody was clocked out. I was the third person in line and there was an acrylic candy display partially blocking the view of the two associates chatting. Then one of them says, “oh, there’s three people in line and we’re just standing here talking.” She then runs to the other register in vain since the large purchase was now over and the two of us with two items were over it. I enjoy going to King Soopers because I’ve never dealt with a cashier and they always have all of their self-checkouts open with a handheld device to override the inevitable, “please place the items back in… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

Its great humor isn’t it? But humor always has a bit of reality to it or we wouldn’t understand it.

Wait, service, experience is always number one–period. Yet, when it’s absent and price is allowed to be the only factor–Wal-Mart.

Ann Mazure
Guest
Ann Mazure
13 years 1 month ago

Shifting from numerous years in retail marketing and advertising to the health care industry, I wonder if The Onion’s survey could easily represent the sentiment in the Emergency Department waiting room. ED being the retail group of the hospital’s health care services, having to wait for service is #1, #2, and #3 on the list of customer complaints.

Thanks for all the wonderful comments….

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