Lessons from waiting for customer service at IKEA

IKEA-IMG01618-20091107-1839Here I am, waiting for my turn for exchanging a piece of kit (no pun intended). I've got two baskets of 80 cm where I do need two of. 100 cm. So, I took a ticket, numbered A413 for exchanges and after a look at the current number I see that they are at A 372. The wait is starting. 20 minutes later, and one of their crappy 'hot dogs' I can't resist, we are at 386.  A little interpolation tells me that I am in for 40 more minutes.

Lesson 1: using visual cues makes it easier to the nerves

It is great to see how things are moving forward. What would be cooler is to have an estimate of how long things are going to take. Given the amount of statistical data they would have, it is definitely doable.

Lesson 2: providing a way to snack is a good idea

Lesson 3: providing a bench on which I can sit is a good idea

Lesson 4: do not come to IKEA early in the month on a Saturday evening

So, 391 now... There is still some benefit to this wait. I do not have to wander inside IKEA, which I truly hate. My wife enjoys it since she doesn't have to deal with me being grumpy. She sends me pictures of what she likes via her mobile phone and we discuss her proposals.

Lesson 5: have your wife's phone MMS enabled!

I am noticing that there is no music in here. Waiting without music is hard.

Lesson 6: bring headphones when you come for customer service at IKEA

Hey, 398! Some skipping due to people thinking that the wait will be too long and calling quits. Good for me!

Lesson 7: if there is a large gap in numbers, a lot of them will be skipped.

This makes me notice that there are a lot of people waiting here and only 3 clerks servicing everybody. On a day like this, it is not very useful. I wonder how they allocate work. It seems that there are 3 queues: A, B, and C. Each is allocated to one person. It would be efficient to rotate the jobs among the people.

Lesson 8: optimize allocation based on the duration of jobs

Hey, 400! What is great about having a BlackBerry is that I can continue working everywhere. I just answered email from a new prospect, which will for sure be very interesting to work with. This in turn makes me think about another lesson;

Lesson 9: use web applications that are light and working even on a EDGE connection

Because there is no 3G or Wi-Fi here and I am using Project Pier to manage almost all of my projects. No AJAX, no fancy effects, and all works nicely on my small screen! 405! Just got a call from TLC (The Lovely Catherine) who is about to end her visit. They added extra clerks, now my queue as two workers!

Lesson 10: Watch closely as you may miss your turn when there are more workers added.

Watching the queue panel and not the clerk's panel is the best idea. They almost got me by surprise! Two to go, 411! I think that it will be the last lesson, bar the final one based on how they will treat my request. I got the goods taken back, they have no more stock for a given rail I had to replace (objects being put out of life is a recurring issue at IKEA). All in all, it went well. That's one key point, the clerks are efficient and well mannered. That's good. And now, back home. My screwdriver is waiting for me 🙂