When Customers Encounter Long Lines

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Wait time – not prices, not selection, not product quality – is the number one factor impacting customer satisfaction.  And when it comes to wait time, perception is more important than reality.

Studies have shown that customers perceive wait times to be nearly 25% longer than they actually are.  A recent study revealed that a wait that exceeds six minutes can often be a breaking point for a customer. Many customers abandon their attempt to purchase at that point.

What happens when a patron encounters long lines (or what the y perceive to be a long wait time)?  The reactions can include:

  • Balking: Deciding against even entering the queue, and leaving the store
  • Reneging: Entering the line, but then becoming impatient and eventually leaving the line and store
  • Jockeying: In cases where there are multiple lines (such as supermarkets or some big-box stores), customers will shift from one line to another.

When an establishment’s poorly-planned or poorly-executed waiting lines drive a customer away, not only does it lose the sale at hand, but there is a huge opportunity cost. Future sales are also lost and the store may receive poor word-of-mouth and bad publicity.

Providing information to customers – or entertaining them – when they are in line reduces their perceived wait time.  If their time is occupied, it feels shorter than if their time is unoccupied (even if it is, in fact, the same amount of time).