Part 2 - Line em Up
The amount of time that people spend waiting in a line, and how they feel when they do so, is a big deal for the average person and the economy.
Altogether, some people spend a year or two of their lives waiting in line, estimates Richard Larson, a professor who studies queuing theory at MIT.
Waiting is experienced in so many ways that when it comes to transactional events the user experience can be as varied as the product or service we are lining up for. A long and unpleasant wait can damage a customer's view of a brand, cause people to leave a line or not enter it in the first place (what researchers respectively call "reneging" and "balking"). And they might never (ever) come back.
There are some very simple ways to shorten lines, including charging customers for skipping or advancing in the line. Priority boarding on airplanes, new digital platforms that fast track common enquiries, chatbots, returning or VIP customers, secure payment methods and express postage. But, as we know, it’s not all about the wait. How people feel when they wait in line often matters a lot more than the duration of the wait.
Research suggests that people who have nothing to do will perceive wait times to be longer than those who are distracted by reading, watching or listening. Mirrors by the elevator, TV screens at the airport, magazines in the waiting room, smartphones... all take people's minds off of their frustration about being imprisoned in a line.
Being told where you are in the queue, or how long you are estimated to be waiting, also helps to defuse the anxiety, stress and uncertainty that people experience. This anxiety gets especially acute when you can't see or monitor the line — which is why many customer service phone lines these days will tell you how many people are waiting in front of you, or try to define your search by optional selection, so you feel almost like your conversation has already started…