Standing in line for the washroom is something that we’ve all endured, particularly in high footfall areas such as airports, conference centres and music venues. Studies show that women spend an average of more than six minutes queuing each time they visit a washroom – and with queuing rarely an enjoyable experience – these washroom queues can impact both your customers and your business.
Washroom queues can cause confusion
In most cases, customers assess cubicle occupancy by checking doors and lock indicators. But this can be an uncomfortable situation for users and it’s not always clear from the washroom entrance which cubicles are occupied, and which aren’t.
Lock indicators are often small and hard to see, meaning that people can be reluctant to lose their place in the queue to make a closer inspection. They end up waiting until they see someone exit a cubicle before making a move, which increases the queuing time in a washroom.
Washroom queues can cause uncertainty
Queues can also lead to certain cubicles being used significantly more than others over a short period of time, resulting in supplies running out faster and the need for a washroom to be serviced at increased frequencies or at unpredictable rates.
If cleaning staff don’t have visibility of consumable levels, there could also be times when consumables are running low or have completely run out. Thirty per cent of people refuse to use public washrooms if there are no supplies of soap, toilet paper and paper towels available so, in situations where this happens, businesses are at increased risk of customer complaints.
For consumers, convenience is key
By causing potential confusion, discomfort or loss of time, queues can affect a customer’s overall experience of a premise and leave a lasting, negative memory. Some could result in anger, complaints and even decisions to spend their money elsewhere in the future, whereas a better washroom experience can have more positive implications and create a better overall impression of your business.
So what can we do to minimise the dreaded washroom queue? Improving the flow of users through a washroom is clearly the best way to reduce congestion – ideally, by having a member of staff available to direct the flow and guide customers to an available cubicle so none sit empty while other people are waiting in line. Few companies, however, have the staff available to do this.
This is where technology can help in a clever way, with devices specifically designed to help combat queues. These include lighting systems that can show cubicle occupancy and visually guide customers to an available cubicle so they don’t have to wait in line longer than is necessary. Using thermal imaging, the internal sensors detect the presence of a user entering the cubicle and change the external indicator from green to red to indicate occupancy.
The indicator light is easily visible from the washroom entrance, so there’s no need for washroom users to hesitate or try doors. This improves the customer’s experience both inside and outside the cubicle as they can use the cubicle, safe in the knowledge that other users won’t be trying to access the cubicle while they’re inside. By removing the uncertainty of availability, these lights reduce queuing time for customers, ease any frustration and improve their overall washroom experience.
Smart hygiene for smart businesses
While improving customer experience, cubicle occupancy lighting technologies can benefit businesses as well. They have the added benefit of wireless connectivity to the internet – converting facilities into smart ones by gathering data on cubicle usage. This allows businesses to see which cubicles are being used more frequently and when, so more efficient cleaning services can be organised.
Cubicle occupancy lights can also be used to make the most frequently used cubicles unavailable to even out usage across a washroom. This reduces the number of times cubicles have to be serviced and, importantly, means that users aren’t caught short with low or no toilet paper.