Waiting in Line for Customer Service

Customers do not like waiting in line for service. Research has shown that waiting produces higher levels of anxiety, stress and uncertainty. With the exception of haunted houses and carnival rides, these are not the emotions most businesses want to evoke in their customers.

 

Young people waiting in lineWaiting in line is often a necessary consequence of normal business operations. Sometimes it can generate quality interactions among your customers. But what about those waiting further down the line? What can be done to improve their experience?

 

Fortunately, there are effective line management systems to help with this dilemma. The effectiveness of these solutions is supported by research and real-world experience. Applying the right solution can significantly reduce any negative experiences for your customers. Your employees will benefit, too. They will spend less time apologizing for the wait and more time serving your customers’ needs.

 

What’s My Line?

 

First, evaluate and select the right queuing system for your particular situation. Most people have experienced the different queuing strategies. There are straight lines, multiple lines (such as banks or grocery stores), and the take-a-number-and-wait systems you see in many government offices. Multiple lines  can move traffic a little quicker, but  this system produces more stress than other methods. People value fairness over speed. Consider the irritation of having someone jump into a longer line and then being served before you.

The single line, leading to multiple agents, addresses the fairness issue, but people often feel herded. You commonly see this system in banks. Often with this system, transactions take longer to get started.

 

Electronic Queuing

 

Queuing systems help to resolve the concerns of fairness, anxiety, and speed. They can gather information prior to the visit enabling employees to be better prepared for the customer.

Please Distract Me: Line management best practices include providing distractions for those in line. Disney is  good at this. Customers report improved waiting experiences when provided distraction or entertainment. It may not always be possible to reduce the time a customer spends waiting in line, but you can improve the quality of the time spent waiting.

Are We Almost There Yet? Studies have identified the “mysteries” of the waiting game to be particularly frustrating to those waiting in line. This includes not being able to see the front of the line (the destination). Even worse is not having any idea of how long the estimated wait will be.  Providing the estimated wait time is an effective way to appease your customers.

What are You Waiting For? Modern queuing systems solve many of the problems listed in this article. They improve your customer’s experience which can lead to increased business and positive word-of-mouth exposure. With a little planning, you can improve your customers’ waiting experience while improving the customer’s overall impression of your business. This is an important detail to pay attention to.

 

Resources

Nie, W. (2000). Waiting: Integrating social and psychological perspectives in operations management. Omega, 28(6), 611-    629. doi:10.1016/s0305-0483(00)00019-0

Larson, R. C. (1987). OR Forum—Perspectives on Queues: Social Justice and the Psychology of Queueing. Operations Research, 35(6), 895-905. doi:10.1287/opre.35.6.895