We recently came across a topical article that is near and dear to Tensator’s queue management and customer journey heart. It was an Economic View piece in The New York Times, entitled: “The Upside of Waiting in Line.” Written by Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University, the article points out the benefits to waiting in line – with everything ranging from urban usefulness, its ability to offset lower incomes, a trigger for sellers to use lines to better segment their markets, the ability to generate buzz and garner positive social media by the excitement of waiting alongside those of like mind.
The article goes on to point out that events that require waiting can attract and inform people who otherwise may not have found out about the event otherwise. Evidence of a crowd waiting in line by default means it’s something worth waiting for. Cowen goes on to say that choosing lines wisely will become a necessary skill set that Americans will need to master and “on the plus side,” waiting is not as painful as it used to be, thanks to our smart devices and WiFi. Lines in fact, are drivers of publicity, and waiting increases anticipation and excitement.
What is interesting about this article -- are the ensuing 97+ comments from around the world. The majority of the comments focus on how to and why to avoid lines, how lines alienate people (especially the elderly), the limits of how long people would wait for anything, the wasting of precious time, the value of time, and how forcing people to wait (especially in 12 degree weather) is disrespectful of customers.
What may indeed be sound in theory and contain elements of truth, just doesn’t ring true in practice. Readers of Cowen’s article found little upside to waiting in lines – there were few, if any, folks advocating for more lines or exclaiming its benefits.
Having managed queues for over 130 years, we’d like to put this article and the ensuing comments into perspective. Retailers, restauranteurs, event managers that aren’t aware of the emotional impact or frustration they are causing their customers by making them wait too long in line are jeopardizing future sales and customer loyalty -- regardless of how it’s sugarcoated. Studies like the one in BizReport, where British shoppers’ patience for standing in line runs out after six minutes or less, while Americans leave the line after eight minutes, serve to underscore the negative and economic impact of waiting in lines.
Cowen’s static view of waiting in line also doesn’t take into account advancements in technology. We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that queue management technology makes it virtually unnecessary for people to wait in long lines, and suffer discomfort – like really,really long lines in zero degree weather! There’s a huge economic upside to retaining customers who would otherwise walk away – perhaps for forever -- if they are frustrated enough – who will go on social media to have a good rant – and go elsewhere (especially if they are in urban setting where they have other choices).
It’s time to move beyond theory, take a hard look at reality, and put into practice queue management technology. Real and measurable advancements have been made in this field to ensure all customer experiences – from young to old – value people’s time and money while earning businesses customer and brand loyalty for great service. A better future is here and now – trying to sell the upside of waiting in long lines is an archaic idea well past its prime.