Retail holiday shopping: last minute tips for reducing lines at checkout

Picture this: It’s Black Friday and your store is filled to the brim with holiday shoppers. Customers greeted by your sales team at the front end are carefully ushered through their sales journey with minimal issue. Your well-trained floor staff seems to be handling the rush seamlessly. Then, as customers approach cash wrap, they notice the line spans towards the back of the store and become frustrated with their experience. They look at their items and decide the wait isn’t worth it, costing you a sale and putting more stress on your employees.

The truth is, no matter how streamlined your customers’ experience is before they reach the cash wrap, the only thing they will remember upon leaving your store is how long it took them to get through the checkout line.

When prepping for the holiday shopping season, most retailers focus on queue management or introducing new technology to help reduce wait times. While both practices are certainly important to maintaining an efficient store, many companies tend to lose sight of the basics when mapping out their holiday strategy. Taking the time to fully prep your team on the fundamentals of in-store customer management, and ensuring you have an organized cash wrap can save up to 20 percent of the transaction time, keeping your customers happy in every step of the buying process.

With the holiday rush in full swing, we’ve mapped out a few last minute tips to help you reduce lines at the cash wrap and maximize your sales potential this season. Take a look.

Make sure your team is consistent.

Is your cash wrap team folding clothes the right way each time they check out a customer? What about your scanners? Are they in the correct spot in proximity to the sensor removal station? Do employees need to share any of these stations?

Ensuring your team is consistently cashing out customers the right way is essential to maintaining steady transaction times during the holiday rush. The cash wrap should be designed such that the associate can operate within the best or preferred work zone as often as possible. Items that are used often should be kept within reach. If your employees need to take an extra step, or bend to get to something, consider reorganizing the workspace to better suit your employees. Not sure how to decide where things go? Try ordering essential items by frequency of use—this will help your team get to the items more quickly.

Maintain an organized back room and sales floor.

 We’ve all seen the messes that can happen on and off the sales floor during the holiday season. Display tables and focal walls that were once pristinely organized are now ripped apart and void of product, while back rooms are neglected as attention shifts to the customers. Though organization is likely the last thing on your team’s mind during a rush, it’s often the best way to improve customer satisfaction. Try having some staff members serve as runners, traveling from the stock room to the floor to restock shelves and retrieve products for customers. You may also consider bringing in employees in the evenings to help get the back room organized for the following day.

Enhance customer perceptions.

In the retail environment, it’s important to remember that long cash wrap lines do happen, and oftentimes, long lines are simply an unavoidable consequence of the business. In these instances, try to alter customer perceptions by offering in-line entertainment, such as videos or focal walls. You may also consider placing an employee around the checkout line area to hand out any in-store promotional items, answer questions and keep lines moving quickly.

Bring in additional support.

For most retailers, the holiday shopping season requires staffing additional employees per shift. Consider scheduling extra cash wrap employees during peak hours. If they are not working the register, they could be prepping in-store giveaways or bagging to avoid long wait times. While hiring temporary employees is not always the answer, sometimes, additional manpower is necessary. If you do decided to bring in holiday help, make sure you give them a duty with little training time required, such as bagging or greeting.

Have you experienced an issue with wait times in the past? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Photo credit:

Patrick O’Leary, Vice President

Patrick O’Leary, an engineering, technology and workforce performance expert, partners with clients to leverage his consulting and industry experience in the pursuit of operational excellence.  He can be reached at [email protected]or on Twitter @olearypatrick.

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