Simple tactics to cut long queues

Article by Olivia Robinson | 29th April 2020

When I worked as a store manager for a UK supermarket, long queues were my biggest daily challenge. With the UK in the middle of a global pandemic, waiting lines have become even more difficult to manage.

We know that the longer someone waits, the worse their shopping experience. Last week a new app was launched to help customers decide whether to even leave the house based on live queue times.

The sight of a queue affects everyone in store. It raises colleague anxiety, it looks bad and gets in the way of the shop floor. The longer the queue, the messier the store and the more stressed customers become.

Customers currently feel afraid to queue for long periods of time. The longer we wait, the more we put ourselves at risk. When it comes to social distancing, the responsibility shifts to the customer to queue responsibly. Most people feel a sense of duty to others and act accordingly. But many stores still place a colleague at the entrance to the store. This person oversees the queue, greets people entering the store and provides hand sanitizer if available. This approach is very effective.

From a store point of view, there should always be a dedicated staff member responsible for queue management. As soon as a queue builds up, this person’s job is to diffuse it immediately. Either by talking to the customer, offering alternatives or dispersing the queue around other tills. This role is currently complicated by the need to remain 2m apart. It can be a struggle to reassure customers and keep everyone calm.

Most stores now have a dedicated manager or supervisor overseeing social distancing in store. This person encourages customers and colleagues to remain calm and keep their distance. This person ensures that anti-bacterial wipes or hand sanitizer is available for trolleys, and is a source of information and calm. Stores have a vested interest in getting customers in safely and out as quickly as possible, and where possible this should be a supervisor’s responsibility.

How can you cut queue times during periods of increased foot traffic?

Make your internal queue system as straightforward as possible

Pick the biggest aisle and make sure there’s enough room for passing distance on either side. If the queue extends, consider where it would wrap around another aisle.

Make entry to the till easy

Tills lay in banks across the store – make it simple and streamlined for customers to enter the queue, so it can be easy for them to get out of the shop as quickly as possible.

Make external queues manageable

External queuing is a source of stress for customers. Could you approach it differently? Allow customers to embrace the sunshine. Find a way of using space efficiently so the queue appears short but snakes around. Keep customers safe – don’t queue through the middle of a car park. Make sure the trolly bank or basket stack is easy to access at the store entrance, and wipes or sanitizer are provided.

Meet and greet customers

This simple addition of a smile at the door makes a huge difference. Have someone as a point of contact to reassure customers that the store is there to help them through the shop.

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