Most of us hate waiting.

Our lives have been tainted with the negative experiences of waiting, but all most of us know about waiting is that we hate it.

Companies know that customers hate waiting so much that they turn their physical queues into self-serve at every touch point. Unfortunately, this moves the waiting experience to self-service channels but often does nothing to improve the overall customer experience. Yes, self-serve is great, but it is not the only design solution to waiting.

To design a great waiting experience it helps to understand why people hate it. David Maister’s 8 Factors of waiting are a great place to start

“The devil finds work for idle hands.” Is wait time actually your problem?

In the early industrial age when buildings were growing up and lifts were being installed, people complained about how slow lifts were. But creating a faster lift back then was prohibitively expensive. One clever engineer redefined the problem to design a way to occupy people while they were waiting. With just the addition of a mirror, the engineer found a perfect way to occupy people’s unoccupied time and the customer feedback was that the new lift was much faster than before.

“First in first served” Is your wait fair?

I’m sure you are, or have witnessed the art of line jumping, else; lane hopping in a car. You see a line move faster, you quickly weigh up the risk of switching, make the switch and all of a sudden the previous line moves faster to punish you. And the cycle repeats. Unfair right? That’s exactly why some waits seem longer than others. A single queue to multiple cashiers (like in an airport) can be perceived as 3 times as fast as multiple queues to multiple cashiers (like at the RTA) because people know that the first in line will be served first.