My partner gets his hair cut at one of the chain “salons”. I use the quotes because it’s not a fancy place. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s a chain that you can probably guess…there are a few of them and they do fine work for a great price.
His only gripe is one I think we as Customer Experience folks can appreciate.
They have an app on which you can not only find a location, but “check-in” if you’re looking to get a cut right now or right-now-adjacent. The map on the app displays nearby shops and estimates the wait times at each one. This is an incredibly handy concept as it allows you to plan your visit based on when’s best to leave to get there on time, or perhaps knock out another task or two before you are seen. The idea being that it certainly beats the old-fashioned method of showing up, taking a number, and sitting waiting for your turn once you get there. (Full disclosure, I usually go to the Air Force base in town when I’m due. They do it that old way, but when each haircut takes about 90 seconds, they can crank through even a long queue pretty quickly.)
The problem, however—and I used the words “concept” and “idea” above on purpose—is that the actual wait times are rarely accurate. Recently he saw that the wait was 20 minutes, got himself checked in on the app, and headed right over. We’re only about 5-10 minutes away, but he wanted to make sure he was taking everything into account, and would rather get there a bit early than miss the window once it was his turn (they’ll drop you from the queue if you check in but don’t show up in that amount of time when they’re ready for you). When he got there, the wait, displayed up on the TV screen at the location, was shown as 45 minutes. Wow, what?
Here’s the thing: If he’d known that the wait would be 45 minutes, he had 20 other minutes worth of other stuff to do at home he could have accomplished. Instead, he’s left with wasted time sitting in the sparsely-appointed waiting area up front. Keep in mind, from the shop’s perspective, one nice thing about the app system (again, in theory, anyway) is that, with shorter-to-no wait times, they don’t need to invest nearly as much in making the waiting area enjoyable, inviting, or even comfortable. This is a discount brand, keep in mind, so saving that investment is a good thing, and in keeping with that Brand Promise.
But that’s what the app is for! Keeping your Customers aware. That sort of information is invaluable. The whole point of investing in the technology was to save Customers time (which is money, remember) and boredom waiting around for their cuts. The upshot being: If you’re going to do it, do it right or don’t bother. It reminds me of the trend in Customer Care these days to be “omnichannel” and “everywhere” your Customer is. Ok, great…do that, but make sure you have the fundamentals right, otherwise it’s just a replication of the same lame experience only in new technology.
What’s worse is that, the poor folks that work at that location have no control over it. I recently went to a competitor’s location (I downloaded the app and gave it a shot) to see what that experience was like. This other place had it right, and who knows, perhaps my partner’s location of choice more often than not also does (although he says it’s happened several times to him). But I asked the lady who cut my hair and she told me that they get that sort of complaint there all the time but can’t do anything about it. The app, of course, is a corporate tool. Surely it’s tied in some way or another to the locations’ systems to provide the estimates, but it’s not as though anybody at any particular shop can monitor what the app is showing, short of downloading and keeping it constantly open themselves. But then, even if they could do that, they can’t fix it. All they get to do is face the brunt from frustrated Customers who show up when they thought their turn was only to find they have a bunch of time to kill.
The technology needs fixing somehow or another. But will any of the brands invest what that’ll take?