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We spend a lot of time waiting.

Waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting on hold for customer service, waiting for a client to call back, waiting for a vendor to call back, waiting for some piece of information to help make a more informed decision, waiting for the new book you purchased to ship, etc…

I’ve thought about keeping a stopwatch on me for an entire week and just track the time I spend waiting. But I haven’t, because I suspect it would depress me…

[in fact, if you want to do this exercise at home, here is a tool you can use!]

What is this time spent waiting costing you? Are you missing business opportunities by waiting? Are you missing personal enrichment opportunities by waiting? But enough about you.

What are your customers thinking as they wait on you or your business?

Here some things to think about:

1. Think about and itemize all points your customers must wait for you when interacting with your business. The list may be longer than you think…

2. Are there things you can do to lesson these wait times?

3. What is causing your customer to wait? Not enough staff? Not living up to promises?

4. Is there something productive you can do with that time to ease their wait pain? [I am not suggesting upselling...]

5. Is a wait time necessary? And thus, do you need to educate and communicate better? They say you can train behavior in your customers…

Yikes, me too. Lots of things I need to work on myself.

Personally, I think communication is the most important ally in helping you fight this problem. I’ve written about this before, but I think Tom Peters said most people can deal with a two-hour flight delay, IF the airline makes a conscious effort to keep us continually informed about what is going on…

Here are things to think about – as a business person – to reduce this wait burden on your customers:

1. Well, obviously, improve your communication. Letting people know what is going on is half the battle.

2. You could hire a company to analyze your workforce operation, and optimize your workforce to better manage customer interaction [think having enough customer service agents at a call center, so customers don't have to wait 30 minutes for support]. GMT Corporation, a guest on this week’s High Velocity Radio Show, does this…

3. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. This is a big flaw of many entrepreneurs. Me included. And I am aggressively working to solve my project management issues where this is concerned. This isn’t intentional, this is just me (and others) not wanting to turn anyone away…

4. Say NO. Sometimes you just don’t have the time or capacity to take on another project. You are better off saying NO, instead of saying YES and making existing customers wait longer as a result…

Not long ago, I waited for eight hours in an emergency room. It was painful. I sincerely don’t expect an ER visit to last 30 minutes. But, there were certainly opportunities to improve that experience.

I felt like my time wasn’t respected. That was, at least, my perception. And perception here, is important. Be sure your customers aren’t feeling that you do NOT respect their time…

Reducing wait times for your customers – OR AT LEAST communicating clearly and honestly while they wait – will go a LONG ways towards improving your customer’s experience…

What do you think? I will wait for your answer…

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[cartoon by @gapingvoid]