Constilation

Apple Store Wait Times: A Case Study

Author
Rui Tian
June 9, 2021
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According to statistics from March 31, 2021, there are over 113 million iPhone users in the United States. That means that just under half of all smartphone users have an iPhone.

Apple, the creator of the iPhone, is a hugely popular brand with a wide range of technology products well beyond its smartphone. For the past ten years, it has dominated the market with various products, from smartwatches to computers and tablets.

When a brand is in high demand, it can become difficult to keep up with customer expectations. While Apple has been known in the past for its outstanding customer service and ease of use, that seems to be changing, unfortunately.

Waiting in Line at Apple Stores

One customer compared visiting an Apple store to “waiting in line at the DMV.” No one likes visiting the DMV, as they are notoriously understaffed and disorganized. Being compared to the DMV is a massive problem for Apple, as customers complain about long wait times, overcrowding, and awkward customer service interactions.

Waiting lines start days in advance of new product launches, and wait times to address troubleshooting problems or even get new tech gear can easily be hours in some locations. While waiting for new products is fun and exciting, so those releases might be worth the wait, it is doubtful that customers feel the same way when they are waiting on service for their existing tech.

Most Apple stores have both Apple-certified techs and “other employees.” Only those certified to work on Apple products can help with a wide range of issues—from easy troubleshooting to fixing huge problems. That means that a separate type of employee is required to deal with crowd control so the techs can effectively tend to customers.

The Problem with Extended Waiting Times

Waiting times can be a huge concern for companies. In fact, even when a customer receives good service, that service can be completely outweighed by the time it took to receive the service. The result is decreased customer loyalty over time.

The Reason for the Wait Time

Wait times themselves will decrease overall customer satisfaction. However, the reason for the wait time and customer expectations will also decrease satisfaction. For example, if the cause for the wait times could easily be addressed—such as by adding more customer service representatives—then the customer will be even more dissatisfied.

Repeated events where a customer goes to the same location and must again wait a significant amount of time will only make matters worse.

Waiting to be Served Compared to Waiting on Service

Customer wait times to enter the service process are generally more critical compared to wait times when the customer starts the service process, and customer satisfaction is more affected by the initial wait time.

For instance, a customer is often more willing to wait while their product is serviced or worked on compared to waiting to just talk to a customer service representative about the problems they are having.

Adherence to “Social Norms”

Customer service wait times lead to increased dissatisfaction when it appears that the business is not adhering to social norms. For example, a customer may be even more frustrated with their wait time when it appears that some other customers are getting special treatment or the store is not using the “first come, first serve” rule.

Perception is Everything

Customers often overestimate how long they have been waiting for service. That means that even minor wait times can seem much longer than they truly are.

Distracting customers to entertain them while they are waiting can help deal with this skewed perception. Using things like televisions, newspapers, wall posters, or games can help distract customers so they are focused on something other than how long they have been waiting. However, these distractions often will not increase satisfaction—they only lower dissatisfaction. Only decreasing the wait time will actually increase satisfaction.

Information About Estimated Wait Times

Providing customers information about how long they are expected to wait can help address dissatisfaction. However, providing inaccurate information about wait times will often only increase the problem rather than help decrease dissatisfaction levels.

Addressing Overcrowding Problems

Apple has done an outstanding job of creating a desirable line of products. However, when those products need to be serviced, there is quite a bit to be desired. Unfortunately, if Apple does not address these issues, customers will start looking elsewhere for their tech—as 80% of customers today consider the experience with a brand just as important as the products they are purchasing.

Unfortunately, Apple has implemented a flawed online appointment scheduling system. It does not have the required level of interactivity and is not updated accurately based on real-time data. 

Using Ombori’s Queue Management System to Address Wait Time Problems

An effective queue management system, combined with increased customer service reps and/or Apple-certified techs, is likely the right answer for Apple’s wait times and crowding problems.

Transparent Queue Management

Ombori’s system uses transparent queue tracking so customers can see how many people are ahead of them and get accurate wait time estimates. Customers can either use their own device as a “ticket” or they can receive a printed ticket that shows when they can expect service.

Notifications to Any Location

Accurate notifications are the key to increase revenue and decrease customer frustrations. Those who are waiting on Apple-certified techs would not need to remain in the store because they know when they can expect service—they can do other shopping or run errands while they wait. This type of knowledge allows customers to use their wait time much more effectively.

Book Appointments and Check-in Online

Instead of servicing customers as they set foot in the door, Apple could utilize online check-ins and online appointment booking. By encouraging communication with the customer before they reach the front door, Apple could control wait times better and reduce frustrated crowds in the Apple Store.

Real-Time Crowd Control Updates

Apple could also use Ombori to create real-time crowd updates for each store. This feature allows customers to check to see how busy a particular store might be at any given them. That way, clients can determine when the best time to come might be, whether they have time to stop by before work, and a lot more.

Digital Signage Integration

The queue management system could also coordinate with digital signage in the area. The signs can announce which service number is up next and who is “on deck.”

Self-Check-in and Registration Features

Instead of having an employee take appointments or reservations, Apple could use that person to service customers directly. They can make this switch by utilizing a self-check-in kiosk and pair it with an online check-in process. When customers have control over how quickly they can check-in, it decreases general dissatisfaction with overall wait times.

Customized Analytics

Ombori also offers analytics as part of its queue management system. This type of information can be very helpful to spot problem areas. For example, perhaps one Apple-certified tech is much slower than the others. Maybe that person needs some additional training to help them speed up service times. Spotting these problem areas helps the entire operation run much more smoothly.

Ultimately, using a queue management system that works properly can be a huge benefit to Apple and any other business that needs to control and manage wait times for their clients. Decreased wait times almost always lead to increased customer satisfaction—and Ombori can help your company achieve that goal.

 

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