Customer Experience Trends: Using Virtual Queue Solutions to Increase Customer Loyalty

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Introduction

Since the earliest days of business, the importance of happy customers has been clear. For any business to survive, there is a need for repeat customers. If you want repeat customers, you must give them a reason to return. This focus on the customer experience has been crucial for centuries now, but it seems more important now than ever.

Customer experience has rapidly grown into a priority for modern businesses. Many companies have oriented their business so that customer experience is the primary focus. According to a Super Office survey of more than 1,900 business professionals, customer experience was ranked the #1 priority over the next five years. This was ahead of both product and pricing.

Businesses are heavily investing in the customer experience space because it helps with customer satisfaction, retention, and gives a company a heightened ability to upsell. It is a business differentiator, and in a world where competition in just about every industry is fierce, it is a core part of any successful strategy.

There are a lot of different ways to invest in the customer experience. Some businesses invest in customer service areas, while others try to improve their technology infrastructure for a more seamless end-to-end customer journey. One of the solutions that many businesses across industries have focused on is a virtual queue management system and appointment scheduling software like QLess. This customer-facing solution can create a more independent, friction-free customer journey.

To understand the value of virtual queuing solutions, we must first look at some of the defining current customer experience trends. The customer defines the customer experience, and today’s customers differ from yesterday’s. Let’s take a deep dive into the important customer experience trends that showcase the value virtual queuing systems can provide.

What Does the Modern Consumer Want?

The customer experience has evolved as business, technology, and consumers have evolved. Creating a positive customer experience requires a business to have a high-level understanding of the customers they are trying to create that experience for. The modern consumer has different expectations and tendencies than consumers of the past. There are several traits and preferences businesses need to be aware of to most effectively create a positive shopping experience for them.

One aspect that defines the modern consumer is their preference for convenience. It only makes sense in a world of Uber, Amazon, and DoorDash that the average person wants easy access when shopping. This preference for convenience is more pronounced than ever, and it is notable in almost every industry. According to a Nasdaq survey of nearly 3,000 US adults, nine in ten shoppers will choose a retailer based on convenience. 97% of respondents said they backed out of a purchase because it wasn’t convenient for them, and 83% said convenience is more important now than it was five years ago.

Customers are also increasingly connected and technology-driven, particularly when it comes to mobile. 85% of Americans now own a smartphone, according to data from Statista. This is an increase from 35% in 2011, with the percentage doubling in just over ten years. People that use smartphones don’t just use them for surfing social media and making calls. They are also essential parts of their shopping experience. According to OuterBox, 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile devices in the last six months.

Beyond just smartphones, the average person spends a significant percentage of their waking life online. The global average was 7 hours a day online for people 18-64, according to AA. This differs from country to country, but today’s consumers are very plugged in, and the pandemic only expedited that online tendency.

To put it all together, there are a few things we know for certain about today’s consumers. They are extremely online, with the majority using smartphones. They demand maximum convenience and are willing to have their phone be a part of their shopping experience. These are all important traits that businesses can use to guide them in improving service quality and customer experience.

Earning Loyalty in Competitive Markets

For any business to last, there is a clear imperative to earn customer loyalty. Businesses that have a strategy built on retaining customers and earning their loyalty will see reduced churn and growing profits. What’s particularly pronounced is the affordability of customer loyalty. According to Fresh Works, retaining a current customer is 5-25x cheaper than acquiring a new one. But getting loyal customers is all the more difficult in a competitive market where consumer expectations are high.

The problem of a saturated marketplace isn’t limited to one industry. Brick-and-mortar retail stores find themselves competing with e-commerce as well as other companies. There are more than 784,000 businesses in the healthcare sector in the United States. Even in higher education, a significant percentage of the student body will transfer institutions before receiving their degree. The modern consumer is highly mobile and selective, and it takes a lot for businesses to retain them.

It doesn’t take much to lose goodwill from a customer. According to VentureBeat, 76% of consumers would stop doing business with a company due to one bad experience. In a world where your competition is just around the corner, all it takes is one unpleasant shopping experience, and your consumer can turn their attention elsewhere.

So how can businesses create customer loyalty? There are a lot of factors that go into this. The overall customer experience is driven by convenience and customer service. While the product or service you are selling is a key ingredient in customer success, so too is ensuring that it is easy to access and the experience of buying it is positive.

Customer loyalty has been in decline around the United States for years now. There is no one formula for improving customer loyalty. But investing in initiatives that are specifically designed to make your customers happier is something that can help. With retention being such a crucial aspect of business success, finding a way to earn customers’ loyalty is imperative to survival in competitive industries.

Queue Management, the Customer Experience, and Your Bottom Line

So many businesses worldwide are investing heavily in the customer experience because they see the potential it has to improve their results. A positive customer experience can directly impact your bottom line. The data is clear. Ensuring your customers have a positive, friction-free experience is important in creating a profitable, high-performing business.

According to the same Super Office report, 86% of customers are willing to pay more if it means a better customer experience. Super Office also references data that show companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in the customer experience.

Investing in products that improve the customer experience is a long-term investment in your bottom line. That is part of the reason queue management solutions have become incredibly popular in a number of industries. From healthcare and government to retail and higher education, major businesses are implementing queue management solutions to create a smoother, more efficient customer experience.

A queue management solution is a software that enables businesses to create virtual lineups customers can enter from anywhere. While in the line management system, customers can monitor the actual wait time and enter the establishment when their appointment has arrived. This tool is highly useful for appointment-based businesses or any industry trying to create an omnichannel customer experience.

The impact the QLess customer journey management platform has is pronounced. The platform has been found to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty by up to 99%. It is software intended to give customers back their freedom and mobility and eliminate the need for in-person waits. It has an array of other features that combine to serve as an all-in-one customer journey management software.

Wait Times and a Stalled Customer Journey

Many things can derail a previously positive customer experience. One of the biggest is a long and uncomfortable wait. In no context is a long wait time something people enjoy, but it can often feel all the more agitating when that wait is done in a crowded store or waiting room. Most enterprises accept long wait times as a natural part of business, but customers don’t feel the same. The average customer is not happy with long waits and is willing to show businesses their unhappiness.

According to a survey by QLess of 250 Americans aged 25 and up, wait times are a significant concern for customers. 60% of surveyants responded that they abandoned a purchase due to a long wait time and never returned or went elsewhere. In the same survey, 69% of respondents answered that they’d patronize a competitor’s business if it had notably shorter wait times.

Customers expect a smooth and fast waiting process, and they will leave if they aren’t getting that. Customers’ definition of a long wait differs, but it might be shorter than businesses expect. In the same QLess survey, 39.4% of customers responded that they believed a long wait was five-or-fewer minutes. Customers will have very limited patience for businesses that have long waits and aren’t implementing solutions to change that.

QLess helps improve customer flow by making the waiting experience more pleasant and reducing the time your customers spend waiting. The improved speed is due to the AI-powered virtual queue system with smart calendar management features. This automates the line process, merging walk-ins with appointments, and seamlessly organizes the line. It has been found to reduce wait times by up to 97%. The improved waiting experience is due to the fact that customers can wait from wherever they want and arrive right before their appointment begins. This takes much of the unpleasantness of long queues away.

Waiting is a part of the customer experience that the average consumer entirely dislikes. Rather than dismissing long waits as a standard cost of doing business, enterprises should implement existing solutions that can help solve the difficulties of substantial queues.

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The Increased Impact of a Frustrated Customer

One thing that technology has impacted in recent years is the impact of a frustrated customer. Negative customer feedback used to be limited primarily to word of mouth, which was still incredibly important. But social media and the advent of platforms like Yelp and Google Reviews have created a world where one frustrated customer can spread their discontent far and wide.

Many people post online reviews, and even more will read them. According to data from Oberlo, almost half of all internet users say they post an online review at least once a month, and 90% of people say they will read online reviews about a business before they make a purchase. Customers’ voices have been amplified by the power reviews give them, and the impact of negative reviews can become substantial.

Customers will avoid your business if you do not have positive reviews. According to CMG Local Solutions, 94% of consumers will avoid a company with bad reviews. Negative reviews have also been found to impact your general reputation, with 50% of consumers stating it makes them question the quality of a business.

Very few businesses will achieve positive reviews every time, but minimizing the number of negative reviews you receive is vital. It is a customer experience problem. If businesses can provide a positive customer experience to every person entering their establishment, they can help minimize negative reviews and ensure they are few and far between.

One of the primary things that will lead to bad reviews is slow and poor customer service. Virtual waiting is a solution that addresses this problem. Customers will likely be irate and frustrated coming out of a long lineup in a crowded, physically congested store. On the flip side, by speeding up waits and removing the need for in-person waits, a customer’s disposition will likely be cheerier. This will lead to fewer negative reviews for businesses.

The Power of a Positive Experience

There is a flip side to reviews. While negative reviews can be incredibly damaging, generating positive experiences for your customers has a profound impact. This comes in the form of both word-of-mouth marketing and online reviews. While one positive review won’t make a drastic impact on your bottom line, creating positive experiences for many customers willing to share those experiences can have a profound positive effect.

Going above and beyond to ensure you receive positive reviews is incredibly important. Customers are willing to share their positive experiences with others, just like they’re willing to share their negative experiences. According to data from Esteban Kolsky, 72% of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people. Positive word of mouth and online reviews draws in customers and boosts the business’ reputation, helping to improve revenue.

But the typical customer doesn’t just want to see one or two positive reviews. The more a business has, the more legitimate those reviews are deemed to be. According to a TrueList survey, only 22% of participants believe 1-10 reviews are enough. 27% of surveyants stated they expect between 11-50 reviews.

That means businesses that want to harness the power of positive reviews need to have a tool that helps them collect reviews. Asking each customer personally for a review can be difficult and time-consuming. QLess enables businesses to gather reviews immediately following appointments or in-store visits. With an SMS pulse feature, businesses can schedule a text message that goes to consumers’ phones after they leave their appointment. This can be a simple request for a review with an embedded link.

Most customers won’t necessarily leave a review unless they’ve had an experience that was either notably positive or negative. Requesting reviews breaks that cycle. Requested reviews typically have a higher score (4.34 stars on average) than unrequested reviews (3.89 stars on average), according to ReviewTrackers. Simply asking your customers for reviews through QLess’ platform will help businesses benefit from the impact of positive reviews.

Competing in a Post-Pandemic World

Several events have drastically impacted the customer experience in the past few years, but none are more significant than the pandemic. The pandemic changed how businesses operate, consumers’ preferences, and how businesses and customers interact. Now, as we move into a world where the worst of the pandemic appears behind us, many of these changes remain. It doesn’t seem likely that the world will completely return to normal, and learning to compete in a post-pandemic world will be important for enterprises in all industries.

There are several different changes to consider that are resulting from the pandemic. For starters, people are now less comfortable in crowds than they likely have ever been before. According to a QLess survey of 250 45+ US adults, 60% of respondents said they associate congested waiting areas and long lines with unsafe conditions. The feelings of discomfort still linger from a highly transmissible airborne virus, and these concerns will not likely disappear overnight.

Another significant change is that technology usage around the world has surged. According to the National Library of Medicine, many cities saw their internet usage jump from 40-100% during the peak of lockdowns. People spent increasing amounts of time online and made an increasing percentage of their purchases through e-commerce. Essentially, the pandemic has played a major role in expediting the digitization process already underway in many places.

These changes will likely impact the customer experience because they are now ingrained in consumers’ habits. Adjusting to these habits is going to be crucial. Decluttering your waiting areas and offering consumers additional technology to improve their experience will be a valuable way to thrive in the new post-pandemic world. This is what QLess can offer.

QLess is mobile-friendly and can be accessed from onsite kiosks, desktops, or smartphone devices. It is a digital solution that empowers customers to wait for products or services wherever they want, removing the need for in-person waits. This will decongest stores, offices, or any other space, ensuring customers feel safe and comfortable. A visitor management solution is a way of adapting to the changes of the past several years that seem likely to linger into the future.

Creating a More Personalized Shopping Experience

Have you ever walked into a store or an office and felt completely invisible? This is common in a lot of busy businesses. While many companies try to offer attention and greetings to each person who enters their store or office, it is incredibly difficult in practice. While it may be hard, treating each customer individually and personally makes a drastic difference. That is part of the reason personalization is one of the most important trends in the customer experience industry.

Customers love personalization. They want their shopping experience to feel individually tailored. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it also makes them feel more seen. Businesses need to find ways to personalize the customer experience because if they don’t, they could be slipping behind competitors in this space.

The data on this issue is clear. Customers want personalization, and if they don’t get it, they’ll shop elsewhere. According to information from Start Up Bonsai, 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that offers a tailored experience. 71% of consumers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences.

One of the reasons many businesses struggle with personalization is that it is difficult to understand the individual wants and needs of every customer. But a big part of personalization is simply making an effort. While having staff remain in contact with each person that enters a business, QLess can help with personalization in a much less labor-intensive way.

The communication features of QLess allow businesses to automate messages and message back-and-forth with customers, which can go a long way toward improving personalization. Businesses can have an automated greeting message that greets customers by name when they enter a business for their appointment. They can send automated messages asking customers if they need anything and have employees respond if the customer has a request. Essentially, they give a business the ability to be much more attentive and responsive to its customers.

Personalization is an emerging trend in customer experience that is critical for businesses to implement. Technology is helping businesses address personalization at scale without drastically increasing the burden on employees. The QLess customer journey software enables enterprises to provide a more personalized encounter every time they enter their store or office.

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Learn from Your Customers

Part of leading in the customer experience space is learning about where you offer excellent service quality and where you might come up short. Many businesses think they understand this, but perception isn’t always reality. Finding ways to learn from your customers so you can evolve and optimize their experience is important, but many businesses lack the tools for this. A queuing system like QLess provides businesses with two core tools to help them learn from their customers.

The first is the business intelligence features. The QLess waiting line management system doesn’t just organize queues for businesses; it also helps them collect high-quality data on key aspects of their business. The QLess app will keep track of things like the average wait time, number of appointment no-shows, and number of customers serviced. This data is then shown in graphs and charts with the QLess reporting feature. It can also be segmented according to days of the week, time of day, employee who handled the transaction, and more.

The second notable feature is QLess’ customer feedback feature. This is a feature that simplifies how businesses can survey their customers. It enables businesses to send pulse customer surveys through automated texts after each customer visit. This immediacy increases the likelihood of customer response. The data from these surveys is stored privately, and businesses can read through their responses to note important trends. It is a tool that enables businesses to collect more customer feedback than ever and better understand how they are faring with customer experience.

The benefits of data and customer feedback are clear. Businesses that better understand their weaknesses can adjust to them. If you are seeing data that indicates you have your longest wait times on Wednesdays at 2 pm or hearing a lot of feedback that your customers were confused when they went through certain processes, this is information that is important to know. These are bottlenecks in your business that are avoidable. Implementing changes driven by data and customer feedback is a great way to meet the needs and desires of your customers.

An Omnichannel Experience

We’ve mentioned the pandemic’s impact on businesses worldwide and how it is changing the customer experience. One of the most important changes that are believed by experts to be heralded in by the pandemic is a move toward an omnichannel experience in brick-and-mortar retail. For those wondering what this means, it is a multi-channel approach to the customer experience, where customers are shopping for products or being serviced through more than one channel of a business. It fuses the digital and the in-person experience.

Omnichannel is commonly regarded as the future of commerce. It is particularly pronounced in the retail industry, where businesses are looking to earn back customers as e-commerce sales climb. One example of the retail industry implementing omnichannel solutions is curbside pickups, also known as click and collect. The pandemic made this type of shopping surge in popularity, with 2020 causing a more-than 100% increase in these retail sales. They continue to climb even as we move past the height of the pandemic.

For retail businesses to successfully implement an omnichannel experience like click-and-collect sales, queue management software goes a long way. These enable businesses to create smooth processes across touchpoints and allow customers to interact seamlessly with the business across digital channels.

A simple process could work like this. Customers browse through a business’s online channel, looking for different products. They click and purchase the product they want to buy and are immediately sent a link to enter a QLess virtual queue. They can monitor their wait time from their smartphone and, when it is time, drive to the curbside pickup location to get their product. There is no need to wait in a physical line, and the whole process is easy and efficient. Retailers are still moving products and getting sales, and customers get a satisfyingly convenient overall experience.

Omnichannel is a trend that will continue to emerge over the next several years. This is because businesses that are implementing multiple channels into their customer experience are seeing results in the form of increased loyalty. According to V12 Data, companies with extremely strong omnichannel customer engagement retain, on average, 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement. The right tech solutions will allow businesses to advance on this pivotal trend.

Align with Consumers’ Technology Preferences

The best way to service your customers is to take the time to understand them. How do they communicate? What do they want out of the businesses they frequent? One of the important factors to consider with today’s consumers is their technology usage. We’ve discussed how today’s consumers are more plugged in than ever, breaking records for average internet time and increasing the rate of smartphone ownership. There are more factors to consider, though. One of the most significant is how consumers want to use technology in their buying journey.

Scheduling an appointment is one of the most significant parts of the buying process in every industry. In a QLess survey of 250 45+ US adults, 63% stated that they would prefer to schedule an appointment via mobile, like a phone call or mobile app. Only 24% preferred to schedule appointments in person. The preference for mobile continued when it came to appointment reminders and communications. The same survey showed that 90% of surveyants prefer to hear from businesses through phone calls, SMS messaging, or mobile apps. The largest percentage preferred text messages.

To provide an optimum customer experience, you must implement mobile-friendly solutions. The overwhelming majority of people have a smartphone and prefer to interact with businesses via their phones. Adding mobile features to your enterprise will ensure you are aligning with the established technological tendencies of the average US consumer.

QLess can operate on multiple channels but functions extremely well as a mobile solution. With everything from SMS messaging appointment reminders and a virtual appointment scheduler, customers can handle every aspect of their pre-appointment process from their phone. QLess enables customers to message staff, book a specific appointment type and slot, and manage and oversee their appointments, all from their phones.

The shopping habits of the modern consumer are heavily tied to their technology usage. If you want to provide the best possible shopping journey, implementing their technology of choice into your customer journey will go a long way. For the modern consumer, phones are their preferred method of interacting with businesses. With that in mind, the QLess mobile features will align with those mobile-driven habits.

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Supporting a Virtual or Hybrid Office

When schools and doctor’s offices worldwide closed down due to the pandemic, they didn’t halt their operations. They just had to find a way to continue to serve their customers without physical contact. This led to platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams becoming widespread as offices turned virtual. Virtual appointments became the norm in the healthcare, government, and education industries. The enhanced convenience of these appointments has led to many offices implementing virtual appointments as a permanent fixture of their strategy.

These appointments aren’t going to be for everyone, though. There are still some consumers that prefer the in-person approach. In the QLess survey of 250 45+ US adults, only 20% of respondents said they prefer to have virtual healthcare appointments. For businesses to succeed, they’ll need to implement flexible solutions that accommodate both virtual and in-person customers and simplify the virtual appointment process along the way.

QLess’ visitor management solution allows businesses to customize their lineup process to blend different kinds of appointments. This means different kinds of customers can be accommodated in the same queue. For customers waiting for a virtual appointment, the virtual services features will allow them to enter the line, monitor the progress, and send a link to a virtual appointment. With Zoom and Microsoft Teams integration, QLess can blend with the existing framework most businesses already have for virtual appointments.

The addition of virtual appointments is likely here to stay, yet most businesses have yet to implement solutions that will make executing these virtual meet-ups easy and efficient. QLess is an easy-to-integrate option that will enable businesses to run a hybrid or entirely virtual line. This will give consumers more latitude to choose the appointment type that works best for them, and the actual appointment process will be efficient and friction-free.

Improving Transparency and Communication

The typical business doesn’t focus much on transparency. Things like wait times and delays are often left unexplained, and customer frustration is allowed to build. That mindset won’t serve companies very well in this modern age of empowered consumers and competitive industry. Becoming a more transparent, communicative organization will directly benefit businesses as they create happier customers. No one wants to be left in the dark, and improving communication will help businesses connect better with the customers they serve.

For any operation with appointments, the pre and post-appointment processes are almost as important to customers as the actual appointment. Communication is a big part of that. Communication is a central component of customer experience, so implementing a unified communication platform designed to make important communication possible at a large scale is a must.

The QLess features help businesses improve their pre and post-appointment communications dramatically. Gone are the days when customers are stuck in long lines without any clear update as to why. Businesses can send messages to entire groups of people in a line at once, providing important updates. This will make the line experience a much more transparent process. Beyond that, the bi-directional communication features can help businesses and customers exchange pre-appointment information, send appointment reminders, and remain in contact throughout.

Becoming a more transparent and communicative organization will help organizations develop stronger customer relationships. The clarity of visible wait times and the ability to message staff will ensure customers don’t feel left in the dark while waiting for their appointments. These features also don’t require significant labor from staff. It is an easy way to enhance the customer experience and make the people waiting for appointments feel more at ease. Communication and transparency are core aspects of a smooth customer journey, and QLess ensures enterprises can provide these aspects at a bigger scale than ever before.

Conclusion

Every business is dependent on its customers. In an increasingly competitive market, that has only become more pronounced. There isn’t an industry in the world that doesn’t have significant competition, and standing out amidst so many competitors can’t be easy. That is why countless businesses worldwide have prioritized the customer experience to separate themselves and ensure customer loyalty.

The customer experience is not static, and many changes over the past several years have forced businesses to evolve. Whether it is increasing digitization, changing consumer attitudes towards personalization, or a global pandemic, many different factors are altering the industry. As consumers and their preferences shift, businesses need to change with them to accommodate their new habits.

QLess and its virtual queue system represent an ideal solution for businesses trying to improve the customer journey. This software allows businesses to eliminate the need for in-person waits, improve communication and transparency, and accommodate the tech preferences of today’s consumers. In a world where customers are more empowered than ever, these solutions give them even more freedom. This has the potential to make customers more satisfied than before, ensuring better reviews and higher customer retention.

Queue management software is a forward-thinking solution for businesses seeking to enhance their performance in the customer experience. Customers and their desires are constantly changing and evolving, but all current trends point toward a world where commerce is defined by convenience and ease of access. With the QLess software, businesses can lead in their respective industries by becoming drastically more accessible and customer-friendly.