The Many Sides of Customer Satisfaction

The Many Sides of Customer Satisfaction

Last updated: May 07, 2014Perry Kuklin

The time a customer spends waiting in line is a critical factor in forming an overarching opinion of a business. But how much of this time spent waiting is real versus perceived? Is it really the exact minutes spent waiting that matter, or is it something more? In fact, customer satisfaction is a multi-factorial concept directly related to a customer’s overall behavior encompassing their expectations, current attitudes, and future intentions.


Customers enter a place of business with anticipated beliefs about how the experience will evolve, from the time it takes to find a sales associate to the time it takes to reach the service or checkout counter, to the speed of the checkout process itself. These expectations are set prior to any real interaction and are typically based on past experiences with your establishment or on recommendations from trusted sources. Expectations can also be formed upon entering a crowded or uncrowded parking lot. When customers have an expectation of how long the wait will be, and they choose to enter the waiting line with that understanding, they are more likely to be satisfied with the wait.


Attitudes or feelings resulting from logical evaluations, emotions, and inherent tendencies towards certain brands, products, or services also play a role in how a customer feels about their time spent waiting. People are happy to wait a long time for the new iPhone, whereas two minutes is too long for a gallon of milk. Attitudes can be manipulated as customers wait in line. For example, keeping customers occupied with digital signage or in-line merchandising can distract from the negativity of “just waiting.”

hospital waiting room


The intentions of customers encompass the decisions they have made about future actions in relation to a business. Are they already planning to come back or is this a one-time deal? Had they already decided to recommend your business to a friend or are they looking for a reason to complain? If their intentions are positive, their perception of the waiting line is likely to swing in a more positive direction as well. Expectations, attitudes, and intentions are all intangible factors stressing the fact that customer satisfaction rides on perception. As perceived wait times decrease, overall satisfaction increases. How will you design your queue to positively influence customer perceptions?


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