Harvard Business Review: What If Customers Charged You For Every Minute Of Their Time Left Waiting On hold?

Harvard Business Review: What If Customers Charged You For Every Minute Of Their Time Left Waiting On hold?

As a business owner, do you have a favorite article, book or publication in which you’ve previously read that you occasionally revisit to help refresh and rejuvenate your creative juices? Well, I do. In fact, mine is a great read from Harvard Business Review titled “While Customers Wait, Add Value.” 

In a nutshell, the article provides specific details on how successful companies take necessary steps to reduce perceived wait times (Disney World is great at this by the way) and “add-value” are the one’s  who reap greatest rewards. At The Original On hold, Inc we’re experts at reducing your caller’s perceived wait-time, and adding value to your brand’s  hold-time with professional on hold messaging.

Just as the article below will show you, customer waiting time is inevitable. It’s what you do with that time that matters most!

Here’s the article:

“While Customers Wait, Add Value.”

What would happen if your customers charged you for their time—for every minute you left them hanging on hold, standing in line, or cooling their heels waiting for your people to show up? Imagine if the meter started running every time you asked a customer to repeat information that should have been in your records already. What if every minute that passed after your promised delivery time shaved a percentage off your price?

Here’s the most important thing that would happen: Your company’s behavior would change drastically—and for the better. You’d start by looking for the times when customers become impatient and would seek to minimize that time. When you couldn’t reduce the wait any more, you’d try to add value to the experience. In short, your company simply wouldn’t dare waste its customers’ time.

Although customers aren’t in a position to levy direct charges for their time spent waiting, the performance of companies like Amazon, which immediately confirms orders and informs customers of shipping and delays, have raised customers’ expectations that their time will be valued. Consequently, reducing customer “NVA time”—that is, non-value-added time—is a new source of competitive advantage, ripe for innovation. NVA time has long been a focus of companies’ productivity enhancements. For a manufacturer, NVA time occurs when work in process sits idle for one reason or another. The more NVA time, the greater the amount of work-in-process inventory—and the lower the profits.

Companies can easily do much better. Many catalogue companies regularly annoy their best customers by cheerfully asking for the same information every time an order is placed, as though they had never heard of the customer before. MacConnection, on the other hand, uses your phone number to tell your sales consultant not only your shipping address and credit information but what kind of system and software you are running. Total time is reduced for them and for you; more important, all of the time is spent on conversation that adds value.

This makes a broader point. As important as it is to reduce customers’ NVA time, it may be even more useful to think about how to add value to the time customers spend with you. Disney has long understood this principle. It employs people and invests capital to entertain theme park visitors while they wait in line for their turn on a ride. Wells Fargo, meanwhile, takes advantage of technology to add value to waiting times. Its ATM machines provide Internet access to updated headlines, weather, and sports scores. This is especially useful at sites that use slow dial-up modems, such as convenience stores, where simple transactions can take a while.

So how can you stop wasting your customers’ time? A simple process can help get you started. First, map the time your customers spend engaged with you or your product. Focus on finding those “points of impatience” when a little bit of a customer’s time wasted causes disproportionate irritation. Consider what a customer’s highest expectations are at any given moment during an engagement with you. Above all, don’t fall prey to the temptation to extort even more value for yourself out of a waiting customer. In my office building, management recently installed in the elevators monitors that assault tenants and visitors with advertisements and trivia—the latter a pathetic attempt to add a veneer of value to the programming. Such an approach to NVA time, needless to say, is not the way to make friends with customers.

If you do nothing else, find ways to get your people to think more about customer time and its value. Marriott pioneered this idea with its “on time or it’s on us” program to improve its customer service. Marriott guaranteed that breakfast would arrive within 15 minutes of the order or the customer would not be charged. In addition to pleasing customers, this program improved service; it forced discipline on hotel managers whose P&Ls would suffer if they had to foot the bill for all those eggs. Steve Jobs also understood the value of customer time, working with the Macintosh design team to reduce boot-up time, calculating that every extra second would consume one person-year every day across the United States.


Original article: http://bit.ly/ZwbqeS

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