Consumer survey shows true impact of long queues

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on May 11, 2007

With consumers juggling increasingly busy lifestyles, a survey of Canadians by NCR has revealed how frustrating queuing time can be for time-starved customers, and the impact it has on merchants' trade.

The study, which was conducted for NCR by Ipsos Reid, found that 84% of those surveyed say they are "becoming less patient about lining up". In separate surveys a similar question was posed to consumers in Europe and Australia, with the results showing that Canadians' frustration about queuing is the highest, followed by consumers in France (82%), Australia (81%), Spain (80%), Italy (77%), Germany (76%) and the United Kingdom (66%).

Drivers of customer frustration
The study found that, when consumers were specifically asked what frustrates them about waiting in line, the majority of Canadians (87%) cited "a lack of staff to assist you". They also indicated that they feel they are wasting time (86%), and more than half (52%) said they are frustrated at not being able to serve themselves.

Amazingly, 62% of Canadians estimated that in a typical week they waste anywhere from 30 minutes to more than 4 hours in queues. Respondents reported that the worst queues occur when "registering at a clinic or hospital" (70%) and "at the checkout in retail stores" (69%). These were followed by "airport check-in" (54%), "at the bank" (52%), "registering a car or renewing a driver's license" (46%), "ordering fast food" (39%), "buying lottery tickets or checking ticket numbers at a convenience store" (19%), and "hotel check-in" (14%).

Passing the time
According to the survey, eavesdropping seems to be a favourite pastime for queuing consumers, with 79% reporting that they have listened to the conversations of other people while waiting in line, with 47% having read something, and 36% having either phoned someone or sworn out loud.

But there could also be an up-side to the time spent in queues: The research also found that 13% claim to have "got a date" while in a queue (rising to 39% in Quebec, for some reason).

Sales impact
But the overall negative impact of queues and waiting times may also be taking its toll on businesses, as 75% percent of consumers said they have walked away from the queue because of the waiting time, and 45% have vowed never to return.

When asked how companies could reduce queues and the associated frustrations, consumers suggested employing more staff (94%) and offering self-service technology (82%). And when asked what technology they felt did the most to alleviate queuing, consumers cited ATMs (37%) followed by the internet (31%). However, specifically in Alberta and Ontario, 28% and 26% respectively cited self-checkout options.

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