What can customers do to avoid queue frustration? Here are a few tips, which may help you to reflect on how to deal with your wait this bank holiday, if you are unfortunate enough to have one.
By Isabelle Szmigin, Professor of Marketing at Birmingham Business School
We all love to go on holiday – don’t we? When it comes to the August Bank holiday there is for many of us, a feeling that we must get the most out of it before autumn kicks in. Whilst bank holidays can be a time to relax and enjoy time with family or friends, there is also the added dread of ending up in a queue of likeminded people heading to the coast, or waiting in an airport just as baggage handlers have announced a bank holiday strike.
Holidays are expensive items in our overall budget and they are risky. Often we do not know what to expect at the resort we go to, and on top of that, there’s the added pressure of trying to please all members of the family. So no wonder there can be times of high anxiety.
But perhaps one of the most frustrating things for holiday makers is queuing. We queue on roads, in motorway service stations; we wait for delayed trains and at security and passport checks in airports. This August, the combination of new regulations demanding entry and exit checks on countries outside the 26 nation border free Schengen zone meant that many people faced 2 hours waits at passport controls in some Spanish airports.
The psychology of waiting in lines
David Maister, an expert on services and one time Professor at Harvard Business School, developed a psychology of waiting lines to help companies deal with this issue. But what can customers do to avoid queue frustration? Here are a few tips, which may help you to reflect on how to deal with your wait this bank holiday, if you are unfortunate enough to have one.
- Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time – always bring along enough stuff for you and the family to keep you occupied. Variety is the key; books, tablets, playing cards, crosswords etc.
- Anxiety makes waits seem longer – this is particularly the case when you choose a line at an airport that seems to be going slower than the others. It is important to remember that everybody usually does get on the plane and while you may not be the first on, if you have a seat booked, it’s not going to go to someone else.
- Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits. Uncertainty is for many worse than knowing that you have a 2 hours wait. Luckily organisations are getting much better at letting you know how long you have to wait. Increasingly both train companies and the motorways agency put information up on boards of how long a queue is or a train delayed.
- Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits. There is nothing worse than someone cutting in before you. I am afraid that this is something that can happen quite a lot and you have two choices. Speak up or chill out. I have done both in my time and I have to say there are advantages and disadvantages to both. My children could get embarrassed when I spoke up too vehemently and you don’t always get justice. So, on the whole I go for chill out now.
Indeed that is a good place to finish thinking about the bank holiday – after all it is about having a restful time, so try to do that even if it is in an airport lounge, just make sure you’ve got something to occupy you and the children.