What is a waitlist?
If you’re considering using a waitlist at your business or organization, that’s usually good news. It means that demand for your services or products is stellar. A waitlist helps you manage, prioritize, and organize that demand.
On the flipside, people very rarely like having to wait. The mere fact that you have a waitlist may be off-putting to some potential customers, and a poorly managed wait can ruin a customer’s experience right from the start.
Thankfully, there are several approaches you can take to effectively manage your demand while keeping customers happy.
Virtual waitlists vs. printed waitlists
Waitlists can be either printed or digital. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that make it better for certain uses.
Printed waitlists are simple, easy to use, and don’t require any tech. They're inexpensive to implement without any real training needed for staff members or customers. All you need is a pen and paper.
There are many variations that can be used in any situation where a quick, easy way to keep track of people seeking service is needed. To elevate and customize a pen-and-paper waitlist, you can use a free printable waitlist template to design the right list for your needs.
These are a good option for small businesses that only occasionally have a wait. But printed waitlists are not as functional or dynamic as a virtual waitlist system, and they can create an extra burden on staff at peak times. They also offer very few options for data collection, analysis, and automated queue management.
A virtual waitlist gives your guests the ability to join a waitlist from any device and wait from anywhere. When a guest signs up on a virtual waitlist, they join a virtual queue and receive accurate wait time estimates and regular status updates via text or email.
With a virtual queue management system like Waitwhile, all waitlist management and operations can be automated. Plus, there’s no additional hardware required – it can be deployed in just a few minutes on your existing devices.
Guests are notified on their phones when it’s their turn and they can communicate with your business via text or email. A virtual waitlist eliminates the need for physical lines and crowded waiting rooms, enhancing your customer experience.
Another plus is that a virtual waitlist helps your business run more smoothly. With tedious waitlist management tasks automated, your staff can devote more time to serving customers rather than managing queues. And performance data is automatically logged and analyzed, so you can easily see operational insights like when you’re busiest or which staff are most efficient – and then make the appropriate improvements.
Learn more: What are Virtual Queues?
Essentials of an effective waitlist
Planning and designing a waitlist can entail a lot of brainstorming. There’s a surprising amount to think through to ensure your customer experience is at its best.
To get the most out of your efforts, you'll have to answer the following questions:
- What is the minimum information that you need to collect from guests?
- How do you manage customer expectations?
- What do you want the waitlist experience to feel like?
- How do you tell guests about your waitlist?
- How can you make your waitlist easy for staff to manage?
What is the minimum information that you need to collect from guests?
Your waitlists can become a drag on efficiency if they're not properly managed and positioned. A smooth process starts with collecting the right information when a guest joins your waitlist. Think strategically about what information you really need, aiming to make signing up as quick as possible for your guests.
At a minimum, you’ll want to capture their preferred communication medium (i.e., text, email, phone, etc.) and what service they want. You can also choose to ask questions that will help you segment customer data for targeted marketing purposes later on, such as demographics or preferences.
How do you manage customer expectations?
Be clear on the purpose of your waitlist. A waitlist for a product launch or store opening is going to function differently from a waitlist to be seen for an in-store service, for example. Define how your waitlist will work at the outset and be sure to communicate the process clearly to your customers.
Make sure everyone who encounters your waitlist knows what to do. Your waitlist needs to include a clear call to action that lets customers know exactly what action you want them to take. Your visitors should be able to immediately identify where to enter their information and what the process looks like.
Stay communicative on what happens next after a customer signs up. With a virtual waitlist, you can use 2-way messaging to give guests regular status updates and let them ask you questions. AI-powered virtual waitlists like Waitwhile will give precise wait time estimates so there are no surprises.
While guests wait, you can ask them to complete forms or review important information to speed up their service once it’s their turn. By giving them something to do, you’re turning previously unoccupied time (standing in line) into occupied time, making the wait feel shorter.
What do you want the waitlist experience to feel like?
Your waitlists are a part of your brand experience. The right design choices can make the waitlist experience feel seamlessly integrated into your customer flow, while the wrong ones can be an instant turn-off.
Make sure you are using language and visuals that are aligned with your overall brand experience. For a printed waitlist, use a template that will allow you to add your business logo. If you’re using a virtual waitlist, be sure your vendor allows you to white-label the platform. For example, Waitwhile is built on an open API that allows brands to totally customize their entire virtual waitlist experience.
Depending on how long it is, your waitlist could be the primary way customers interact with your brand for quite some time. Therefore, make sure you're sending a message that's consistent with your brand identity.
How do you tell guests about your waitlist?
You need a plan for promoting your waitlist so your guests know it exists. If it’s printed, put it in a prominent place so customers will see it and add their names.
If it’s virtual, make joining the waitlist as easy as possible. If you want to give your guests the option to join from home, link to your virtual waitlist on your website, in email communications, on your social media profiles, or even as part of your Google Maps listing.
In person, guests can use a QR code or text a number to join your virtual waitlist on their phones or you can set up a self check-in kiosk using a tablet. With virtual waitlists like Waitwhile, you can also geofence your list so that only guests within a certain radius of your location will be able to access it.
How can you make your waitlist easy for staff to manage?
Even the best designed waitlist can fall apart if it’s not properly managed. For a printable waitlist, there’s really no way to get around manual queue management – you’ll need at least one staff member who is responsible for managing the list and staying in contact with those that are waiting.
A virtual waitlist gives you the major benefit of automated queue management. Customer workflows can be put on autopilot. You can rest assured that customers will receive accurate wait times and regular status updates.
Automated queue management is a win-win. Guests get the freedom to do anything while they wait, knowing their place in line is secure, while staff don’t have to manually manage crowds that can quickly get out of control.
The importance of a good waitlist
Whether you go the paper or the virtual route, taking the time to think through the design and process around your waitlist is vital.
So much of the overall customer experience hinges on the early touchpoints with your brand. A waitlist that’s seamlessly integrated into your customer flow will put your relationship with your guest on the right track.
Keep reading: What is Customer Flow?