Waiting is the Hardest Part: Entertain Your Clients If You Want to Keep Them

Long LineThe unfortunate reality is that sometimes clients have to wait to receive our services. Your program may even lose a substantial amount of clients because of it, costing the client money to have their taxes prepared elsewhere.

Why not make this process as pleasant and fun as possible? If they aren’t thinking about the wait, they’re more likely to stay.

Take a look at some suggestions from NCTC staff and members for your tax site’s waiting area:

A simple and honest welcome can go a long way.

  • Make sure you have a greeter or take the time to say hi or how are you no matter how busy you are.
  • Be realistic, clear, and open about wait times. Often clients don’t mind waiting as long as they know what they are in for. Using a bingo number system, digital signage, or LED signage can often help. Use a dry erase board or simple signage to show clients that the tax preparation process is moving forward if other options are not possible.
  • Have a methodical and fair way of seeing clients to make sure that you are consistent. Even as adults, nobody likes to feel like they were cut in line.

Keep the kids engaged — happy kids mean happy parents!

  • Have crayons, pencils, paper, and coloring pages readily available. Display work at sites or designate a tax site gallery area.
  • Simple organizational stickers promote your organization and can make a little one’s day.
  • Traditional Tic-Tac-Toe using dry erase boards or paper is an oldie but goody for all ages.
  • Keeping used children’s books that are donated or purchased from consignment shops, garage sales, or schools is a great way of encouraging reading, creating family time, and passing the time. Only use books you are okay with parting with.

Entertain with music, videos, or news if waiting area is in separate location or doesn’t interfere with in-take or tax preparation process.

  • Music can be calming and a great way of generating conversation or interaction with clients.
  • Public Radio is another great option that is interesting, informative, and educational.
  • Play videos that promote your organizations work, educate on relevant news, or discuss issues that may be impacting your clients.

Food of any variety (snacks, treats, or candy) can go along way. If you can’t change the speed, try to feed!

  • Ask a local bakery or restaurant to sponsor a tax site or provide a meal for clients and volunteers.
  • Often larger corporations or food chains will donate on a daily or weekly basis and have ongoing relationships with many non-profits.
  • Many clients show up early before tax sites open and depending on the night can be waiting for several hours before being seen causing them to miss lunch or dinner. Purchasing chocolates, cookies, or healthy non-perishable items like trail mix or granola bars can tide them over. Avoid grumpiness or unnecessary aggravation by minimizing hunger.

Community Building can come in many forms and is a great way to serve multiple purposes. Divert attention away from time and encourage public involvement.

  • Have a sign-up sheet for neighborhood clean-up efforts or any other events going on nearby.
  • Ask local community colleges, universities, or technical schools to provide material on continuing education.
  • Invite a guest speaker to have a short lecture on an interesting topic related to taxes (or not related to taxes works too).
  • Keep crossword or Sudoku puzzles available (for adults and kids).
  • Try interactive exercises or games that are simple and do not require any materials. It can be as simple as asking about favorite foods or colors.

We all know it can be frustrating to wait. Making the effort to keep your clients entertained – or at least keep their mind off the wait – can ensure they’ll stick around to utilize your services, helping you and helping them.

Do you have other ideas? Be sure to share them in the comments section!

By Soni Sinha, Special Projects Coordinator

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About National Community Tax Coalition

National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) is the nation's largest, most comprehensive membership organization for community-based organizations offering free tax and financial services to low-income working families.

Posted on November 12, 2012, in NCTC and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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