'BALKING' OCCURS WHEN A POTENTIAL CUSTOMER AVOIDS A SERVICE QUEUE, USUALLY BECAUSE THE SIZE OF QUEUE CONVEYS THE MESSAGE THAT THE WAIT IS 'TOO LONG.'
In response to the restaurant suggested by a friend, Yogi Berra once quipped, "that place? It's too crowded, no-one goes there anymore." When potential customers avoid services, prospective sales are lost. Moreover, studies have shown that visitors that 'balk' at a line are much more likely to avoid that business in the future, irrespective of the quality of the underlying services or goods. When all of these missed opportunities are added up, 'balking' accounts for billions of dollars of missed revenue opportunities for American businesses each year.
WHAT IS 'BALKING', AND WHY IS IT BAD FOR BUSINESS?
It's true that lines convey information, that something good awaits at the end, but when the line is too long, customers will avoid it. 'Balking' occurs when a customer sees a line or service opportunity and skips it, especially because it appears too long or burdensome. When a customer avoids your goods or services, as you may have guessed, it's bad for business. No matter how busy you might be at the time, when customers balk, you're missing an opportunity to build your brand, provide excellent customer service, and ultimately, you're leaving 'money on the table'. Reducing, or ideally, eliminating balking, is key to driving long-term customer retention. To learn more about why customers wait in line in the first place, even though everyone tends to hate waiting, check out this article explaining why lines aren't as good as managers tend to think.
HOW CAN A DIGITAL WAITLIST REDUCE 'BALKING'?
A digital waitlist allows the guest to provide their name, SMS number, and size of their party to the host staff, or enter their information into a kiosk. From there, the guest receives a confirmation SMS, and another when your venue is ready to serve them. Because a digital waitlist effectively eliminates the perceived need to be physically present to 'hold' one's place in line, it's low risk for the guest to join, even if they are unsure if they will ultimately show up in the end.
More than 90% of U.S. restaurant guests are familiar with this form of restaurant waitlist management technology, and most are willing to add themselves to digital lists even when they are unsure if they will show up. Nonetheless, when quoted wait times appear excessive to the guest, they will 'balk' at adding themselves to the digital list. One way to discourage balking in this situation is to inform the guest that they can monitor their position in line, and get real-time updates about the wait. When guests are informed that they have access to real-time information about the venue, they are much more likely to add themselves to the list. When guests have a pleasant experience on your waitlist, you increase your chances to make a sale now, and in the future.
Few nightclubs have adopted technologies for managing their waiting customers, but many nightclubs and bars could stand to benefit from efficient waitlist management. One survey demonstrated that in dense cities, like Boston or New York, door persons would routinely tell prospective customers that "it's not worth it [to wait in line]," when the wait times exceed 1 hour. Even at venues that are operating at maximum occupancy, it's worth letting the guest know you're prepared for them with a digital waitlist, rather than saying "don't bother." The impression you make on your visitors sticks with them, good or (especially) bad, and influences their decision making the next time the venture out.
HOW DOES WAIT'N EFFECTIVELY ELIMINATE 'BALKING'?
Although the majority of restaurant patrons are familiar with SMS facilitated digital waitlists, only about 25% are familiar with solutions that allow them to monitor their position in line, and expect to have to download an application from the App Store or the Android Marketplace. When restaurant guests are informed that WAIT'N allows them to monitor their position in line, view real-time information about the current wait, modify the information about their group, all without the inconvenience of downloading a new app, they almost always choose to add themselves to the list, effectively reducing balking to nearly zero. Especially effective at high-volume venues operating at capacity with daunting exterior queue lines, informing potential customers that they will have access to real-time information about their wait gets them on the list, and provides more opportunities to make a sale.