Effective Queue Design, as Told by Your Customers

Effective Queue Design, as Told by Your Customers

Last updated: June 21, 2018Perry Kuklin

“Often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself.” - Professor Richard Larson, MIT

The queue is a critical point in the customer journey. According to a recent TimeTrade study, 75% of customers are lost due to waiting-line related issues, and long wait times are responsible for 15% of lost customers. When it comes to queuing, customers have expectations as to what the experience should look like. However, these demands aren’t necessarily vocalized or even directly brought to your attention before a customer simply walks away and heads out the door. 

How then can you design a queue that meets customer expectations? The first step is knowing what your customers really want. Here’s what the literature says about customer expectations:

1. Give me a comfortable waiting environment.

In the world of positive queuing experiences, perceived waiting time is arguably more important than actual time spent in line. Perceived wait time and actual wait time are often significantly different; the same ten minute wait can feel incredibly different depending on what the rest of the waiting experience entails. 

Businesses can use these findings to develop a waiting experience that makes a wait feel shorter than it really is. To set the stage for a positive waiting experience, a comfortable environment is key. It’s found that improving the waiting environment drives down the customer’s perceived waiting time. 

Ways to improve the waiting environment might include a reception area with chairs or sofas. Queuing solutions with technology integrations can also enable customers to wait comfortably until they receive an alert on their phone, informing them it is their turn to be served. 

2. Tell me (accurately) how long I'll be waiting.

You might be surprised to learn that known wait times actually feel shorter than unknown wait times. In other words, when you give your customers an accurate estimate of the wait – telling them upfront that the expected wait time is 3 minutes, for example – that 3 minute wait will actually feel shorter than 3 minutes. Alternatively, when customers enter a waiting line where their expected wait time is unknown or undefined, every minute ticks by more slowly. Providing this level of transparency can be facilitated with a digital queuing system that accurately monitors wait times in the queue and posts the information.

3. Make it a fair wait.

The first-in-first out system is typically regarded as the most fair queuing system, according to customer research. Implementation of a first come, first serve queuing strategy is straightforward and can be done with a single linear queue. A single line queue is efficient, is easily achieved with retractable belt barriers, and is universally understood as a fair system, which can give a good impression of fairness to your customers. 

4. Help me pass the time.

An occupied wait that distracts from the queuing process itself can serve to enhance the overall experience. It is shown that an occupied wait feels shorter than an unoccupied wait. Opportunities exist to keep customers engaged and happy while they wait,  including entertainment or information displayed on digital screens within the architectural space, or even merchandise displayed in the queue so customers can browse and shop as they make their way through the line.

5. Make the queue orderly and efficient.

Keeping the line moving is one of the critical steps to keeping customers. Long, seemingly inefficient lines are known to disappoint customers. One study found that 69% of shoppers have abandoned due to a lengthy wait. How long is “too long” will depend on the customer, but some surveys say customers will wait less than 7 minutes, whereas others say this number can be as much as 13 minutes before customers decide they are done. Obviously, these numbers will vary from business to business. You should know your customers’ limits and manage accordingly.

To address the issue of long waits, find ways to add efficiency and increase responsiveness. Solutions to improve efficiency include call forward queuing to decrease average wait times and serve more customers in less time. Responsiveness and proactivity are also key. Queue analytics offers data driven insight to monitor foot traffic in a way that anticipates queue buildups. Companies can set wait time maximum thresholds and receive real-time alerts when the queue is at risk of exceeding these programmed levels. In becoming more responsive, companies can improve customer’s perceptions about the wait by addressing waiting environment problems before they escalate. 

Ready to elevate your queue design to improve the customer experience? Explore solutions to bring your queue to the next level.


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