Scheduling retail workforce to meet in-store traffic requirements is a challenging task due to all the variables. Uncertainty about when customers will come into a store is certainly at the top of the list because while one can look at past traffic patterns, every day is a new day in retail. Employees provide their own constraints with work time preferences, turnover, scheduled and unscheduled time-off, etc. The good news is that with a queuing and scheduling software solution, retailers can not only schedule their workforce, but they can schedule their workforce effectively.
Here are 4 reasons why retail establishments need a queuing and scheduling software solution:
1. Retailers can predict store traffic
Intelligent data modeling software enables retailers to better forecast when customers will come into their stores. Amazon is the pioneer in this space and they have a better understanding of the customer than any other retailer. Amazon with their Amazon Prime members and now with their Whole Foods acquisition are building sophisticated analytic models which can predict what these consumers will want, how much they will want, and when they will want it. Letting customers schedule appointments or queue up for service provides retailers another set of data points to better understand when customers want to shop.
2. Retailers can proactively alter daily traffic volumes
By anticipating peak times, retailers can use appointment software to avoid getting slammed. Customers are offered in-store consultation appointments when the store is less busy, smoothing out their daily traffic. Or if a store’s challenge is staffing; then one can offer appointments when employees are most willing to work.
3. Customers can check out wait times in advance of walking-in
Communicating real-time waiting times to customers allows them to choose when to visit a location or to choose which location to visit if the retailer has many locations. Retailers are advised to carefully monitor queue waits and make staffing adjustments accordingly. Some grocery stores are tracking the number of shoppers in the store, calculating average shopping time and predicting when new checkout aisles need to be opened. Meanwhile, Amazon Go just skipped the checkout process altogether using beacons and intelligent cameras. Now even your local department of motor vehicles (Virginia, Massachusetts, California broadcast wait times. If they can do it, so can anyone.
4. Customers have a better understanding of when they will be served
We are all familiar with being in a queue while waiting on hold during a customer service call, “You are the 24th caller in the queue and your expected wait time is 11 minutes.” Or at the supermarket deli, picking those little paper numbers. While at times frustrating, the queue communicates that there is a desire by the establishment to be fair with people’s time. Offering in-store queuing or queuing for people before they arrive at the store, can help attract shoppers.
By implementing these recommendations with a queuing and scheduling solution achieves two goals for retailers. First, store managers will be better able to meet customer needs. Predicting and streamlining traffic makes it more convenient for the customer. No customer wants to wait in line to be serviced. Not only can it impact current sales (the customer leaves before purchasing their intended items), but it can also impact future sales (customer chooses a different retailer because their existing store is too busy).
Next, managers will be better able to meet employee needs. With retail turnover at 65% for hourly employees, incorporating employee scheduling wishes into their work schedules will result in lower turnover and happier employees.
For more information about waiting in line research, download our e-book, The Science of Waiting in Line.
As it turns out, we behave predictably when forced to wait in line. When waiting for service, we are all cogs in one big machine, conforming to statistical rules. Those who know them can manage waiting crowds mathematically like data packets on a network. Download this e-book and learn more about the psychology of queuing and the steps you can take to master them.