Improving The Waiting Experience


People are emotional beings, we measure most things in our live based on how we feel about them instead of how it really happens, hence perception often takes precedence over facts, or over actual measurement.

The same case happen when people are put into a customer's role, and having to wait for their food to be served when they're eating out in a restaurant. A very fat chance is, if you feel bored, 10 minutes are probably too much a wait, while if you feel excited while waiting, 15 minutes passed quite effortlessly.

Hence the key of providing positive waiting experience lies in the restaurant's ability to provide their customers with involving and interesting activities.

This is what happen when I visited Hazara in Jl. Agus Salim, Jakarta quite a while ago; interesting restaurant ambiance, charming dining company, and comfy on the floor seating complete with fluffy pillows, are more than enough to make me feel occupied and excited for the duration of our food to finally arrive even that it passed the 15 minutes mark. On top of that, the premise also provides various table games both from local origin (congklak) to a more obscure origin games like card games or backgammon. They also have a mini pool-table free for customers to play with.

On another occasion and different topic, same positive waiting experience happens at this modern barber shop Citi: Cuts at Sarinah bldg, Jl. MH Thamrin, Jakarta. They provides the latest Men magazine, e.g.: FHM, Maxim, Cinemags, which makes waiting time passed so fast it even felt disturbing that your turn comes too soon -- while on reality I waited for a barber to finish his half-done job on a customer's hair, which normally takes about 15-20 minutes.

So if you're a business owner, which one would you aim for: the actual length of waiting your customer must endure? Or the quality of experience your customer is having while they're waiting?

Improving The Waiting Experience

As mentioned in the beginning of this writing, the Waiting Experience could be improved by providing things that could get your customers to be involved in an interesting and exciting activities while enduring the wait, e.g.:
  1. TV with favourite channel showing (e.g.: Sports for men, reality shows for women, cartoon for kids, music for teens)
  2. Live music
  3. Interesting reading materials (e.g.: Fashion magazine for women, Men magazine, Newspaper, etc.)
  4. Free starters (e.g.: bread sticks, crackers, etc.)
  5. Free WiFi (if your customers have mobile devices, or if you want to attract customers from this category)
  6. Table games (e.g.: Snake and Ladders, Backgammon, UNO Cards, etc.)
  7. Physical games (e.g. Pool tables, Dart boards, Table football)
Should you think you have taken care of the food-waiting experience, and another Customer Satisfaction Survey verified that, then let's not forget "the other" waiting experience that you have to also take notice; the waiting experience for the bills, since it also requires your customers to wait.

Waiting for the bills - The other Waiting Experience

A good eating experience preceded by good waiting experience could still result in a negative satisfaction if customers have to wait too long for their bills to arrive, and their payment to be processed.

It remind me of this lovely semi-outdoor restaurant in Bandung, the Cafe Halaman at intersection of Jl. Siliwangi and Jl. Taman Sari. In the mid nineties, the place was so popular it was hard to even get parking space on weekends.

The food is great, prices are very friendly -- even for my college year's pocket, and the ambience is just wonderful, a good place to have dinner with your buddies, or for a date -- if you can stand the chance of encountering your fellow college buddies there, which most likely would happen.

A big minus of this place however, was the length of time it requires to greet the customers; welcoming them to the premise, and showing them their seat including handing the menu. What more likely to occurs is customers look for empty seats, occupy it, and then waving helplessly at the waiters to have their attention. And it wasn't because of the super busy peak hours; it was just the waiters are not trained to be attentive; e.g.: standing in their post unoccupied but doing something not service-related, staring mindlessly or maintaining their attention into areas outside of the dining floor, etc.

The other constantly annoying thing is the amount of time they requires to calculate for the bills; one measurement resulted in more than 30 minutes of waiting, while on other occasion it even allows us to leave the place without getting noticed and get into our car.

Outside of potential uncollected profits when customers leaving without paying, negative bills waiting experience simply hurts your business reputation.

As in my case, I informed the waiter in front of the entrance anyway, and it still requires another 5 minutes of waiting.

Improving The Other Waiting Experience

When a customer is done with his eats, there might still be activities they involved in, e.g.: having a chat with their dining partners, discussion over a topic, working on their laptops, updating Facebook status, etc. For these kind of customers, long wait for the bills is tolerable. However on majority, your customer have something else to do elsewhere after their eats, or even pressed by time to get into another activities after the eats, hence making short wait for the bills is very important. In this case, involving your customers into another activities to compensate the wait might not be the best option. You need to find ways to cut down bill preparation time, period.

Orders might get recorded incorrectly, assigned to a wrong table, or even not recorded at all, especially when it is additional. Having to rearranging and reviewing them during bill preparation could be complicated and takes time. Having a good track to what your customers are ordering then, is very important.

A good order recording then, is the crucial element in bill preparation, and it occurs in the very beginning of your customer servicing process.

Afterward a good reliable order calculating tools would become handy. No it doesn't always require fancy high-tech high-cost computer application, as some restaurants could still perform well with calculators, or even abacus; for eateries with only few dishes. For restaurants with a lot of menu choices, and high occupancy rate, then it's a different case. What important is to carefully inspect what your restaurant needs, then adopt the necessary tools.

Depending on your type of restaurant, processing the bill at the same time with processing the food order could greatly diminish this bill-waiting time thus resulted in positive bill-waiting experience. The catch is, your customers would be required to pay upfront for the meal, which gives the fast-food like experience thus hurtful for a more established eateries' image and perception. However it works well for mass targeting restaurants where ambience and perception of high class takes a back seat in customers' priority. (byms)

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