15 Effective Ways to Reduce Perceived Wait Times (Explained!)

  Time to read 8 min
No AI was used to create this original content. This article was researched and written without the help of any AI tools.

You probably already know that no one enjoys waiting in a queue. More often than not, long wait times lead to frustration and dissatisfaction and drive customers away. 

Worse still, there’s something worse than the wait time. This is the perceived wait time (how long the customer feels they’ve been waiting).

When the wait time feels longer than it actually is, customers may feel like they’ve been waiting forever when they’ve actually been waiting for not very long. This can increase frustration and dissatisfaction by a hundredfold.

Thus, reducing perceived wait time is critical to customer satisfaction. So, how can you reduce perceived wait time?

This article will answer this question by discussing 15 effective ways to reduce customers’ perceived wait times. 

1. Utilize digital signage

Digital signage (aka electronic signage) helps reduce perceived wait times by engaging and entertaining customers while they wait. It is an electronic display screen that shows moving images or videos to attract customers’ attention. 

The displayed media “distracts” customers from the wait, making wait time feel shorter. 

Digital signage can reduce perceived wait time by about 33%. Thus, implementing digital signage will make a 30-minute wait feel like 20 minutes.

Digital signage offers many advantages when implemented to reduce perceived wait times. These include:

Offers elevated experience

Digital signage is a step up from static printed signs. If your competitors use printed signs, implementing digital signage will set you apart immediately. 

It’ll improve the ambience of your business environment and provide your customers with a comfortable and elevated experience.

Shows promotional content

You can use digital signage for advertising purposes to show your products, prices, and promotions.  

Delivers educational content

You can also use digital signage to show informative content like news and trivia. This is very effective in engaging users and distracting them from focusing on the passage of time. 

Reinforces branding

Digital signage allows you to show customers branded videos that reinforce brand awareness.

Offers fresh content

An in-house operator can change digital signage content at any time. Thus, unlike static printed displays, digital signage helps you always show fresh content relevant to your current business initiatives. 

For example, with traditional static displays, you’ll need to discard advertising elements whenever you change offers. But with digital signage, you only change the media displayed.

Also read: Why digital signage will save you time and money.

2. Offer appointment scheduling

Offering appointment scheduling helps reduce perceived wait times by making customers come for their service at pre-arranged times. Appointment scheduling allows customers to book when they’ll come for the service. 

This helps you manage customer flow as you can schedule customers for different times.

With no two customers booked for the same time, you can attend to each customer immediately after they arrive for their service, making you more productive.

Not only does appointment scheduling let your customers choose what time works best for them, but it also lets you prepare for each customer’s visit. 

You can look up customers’ information before they visit, allowing you to offer personalized service when they arrive.

3. Break up wait time into segments

Breaking up wait time into segments reduces perceived wait time by giving the impression that the visit is progressing. Breaking up wait times means dividing the overall time that customers have to wait to get served into distinct segments. 

This helps you create a multi-stage process that improves the waiting experience.

When customers have to wait to get served for one chunk of time, the actual wait time may seem longer. 

However, if you break the wait time into segments, customers will sense progress as you move them from one stage of the process to another.

A practical example of breaking wait times into segments is inserting prescreening into the waiting experience. 

Customers wait for prescreening, and then after screening, they are sent to an area to wait for a service provider.

4. Communicate expected wait times

Communicating expected wait times reduces perceived wait times because it removes uncertainties. Uncertainties increase frustration, while information lowers it. 

When customers are waiting in line and have no idea of how much longer they have to wait, the wait will feel longer and more miserable than it actually is.

Conversely, information increases customers’ tolerance of wait times, making them less likely to overestimate how long they wait. 

So, an effective strategy to reduce perceived time is to calculate expected wait times and communicate this information to customers.

However, endeavor to meet expected wait times, as making customers wait significantly longer than you promised will increase their frustration. 

That is if you tell customers that they’ll wait for 10 minutes, ensure their wait time is approximately 10 minutes. 

5. Overestimate wait times

Overestimating the wait time reduces perceived waiting time because it gives customers the impression of faster speed of service.

When you choose to communicate the expected wait time to customers, it is best to overestimate the time. 

That is, if you calculate the expected wait time as 10 minutes, you should tell customers they’ll wait for 15 or 20 minutes.

This elevates the customer experience in two ways:

  • Firstly, known wait times feel shorter than unknown wait times. So, customers are less likely to overestimate wait time when you inform them of how long they will wait. 

  • Secondly, customers waiting in a queue will feel that you offer fast service if it gets to their turn quicker than expected.

6. Address customers waiting in a queue

Addressing customers in a queue helps reduce perceived wait times as it removes uncertainties and shows the customers that you value them.

Customers will feel worse when it seems like you do not care they are waiting in a queue. 

When the service provider does not give them any information, customers in a queue tend to overestimate actual wait times and inflate their frustration.

So, address customers waiting in a queue. Thank them for their patience, politely explain what may be causing the delay in service and what you are doing to get things going, and give them an estimate of how much longer they will wait.

Addressing them shows that you value their time and understand their frustration, and this will go a long way in making the waiting experience less frustrating. 

7. Occupy waiting time 

Occupying the waiting time reduces perceived wait time because it prevents customers from focusing solely on the passage of time.

A popular saying in the corridors of queue management is, “Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time.”

When people in a queue have nothing to do, they pay attention to the passage of time, making the wait feel longer. 

However, if they have something to do while waiting for service, they’ll be distracted from the passage of time.

Popular ways to occupy customers’ wait time is to put televisions or magazines in waiting areas. You may also provide free WiFi or offer interactive games.

You may also like: How to set up a TV Dashboard for your office (Basic Scheduling)

8. Make the waiting area comfortable 

Making the waiting area comfortable reduces perceived wait time because it makes the wait more enjoyable. When people are comfortable, they are more likely to relax, and waiting becomes less frustrating. 

Imagine someone pacing a lobby and another sitting comfortably in an inviting waiting area. It’s not hard to guess who among them will be more frustrated. 

Some ways to make the waiting area comfortable include adding comfortable seating, including amenities like water stations, charging stations, etc.

9. Keep the queue moving

Keeping the queue moving reduces perceived wait times because it helps customers see progress. Nothing feels more frustrating than a stagnant queue. 

Customers waiting in a queue want to see progress. So, they tend to overestimate wait time and feel more miserable if a queue feels stagnant.

10. Use a common queue

Not only does a common queue give the impression of progress, but it also eliminates the frustration associated with being in a slower queue.

When one queue feeds multiple service stations, the queue will be seen to be moving fast. 

But with multiple queues (one for each station), the queue may be seen as moving too slowly.

Multiple queues move at varying speeds. So, some queues will be faster than others at some point. Customers in the “slower” queues will tend to overestimate their wait time and feel more frustrated. 

11. Work with a sense of urgency

Working with a sense of urgency helps reduce perceived wait times because it shows customers that workers are striving to serve them as quickly as possible. 

It is not enough to serve people in a queue as quickly as you can. While at it, you should not give the impression that you are not doing enough. 

That is, ensure your employees avoid what customers may perceive as idle conversations/ tasks.

When customers feel that service persons are not doing enough to move the queue, they become more frustrated.

Know that employees may actually be doing what serves the customer. 

But the customers may perceive it as two employees chatting while keeping them waiting. 

Thus, during busy times, employees should keep interactions or activities that customers may perceive as not serving their interests off the floor.

12. Offer self-service kiosks

Offering self-service kiosks reduces perceived wait times by reducing actual waiting time and improving operational efficiency. Improving service delivery is one of the best ways to shorten wait times. 

That is, when you increase your speed of service, you move people through the queue quicker, reducing both the perception and reality of waits.

Interestingly, one way to improve service efficiency is to offer self-service kiosks. These are stations that let customers serve themselves instead of waiting in a queue to be attended to by a service provider.

When customers serve themselves, they feel attended to, reducing the frustration of long waits.

13. Use a Queue Management System (QMS)

Queue management systems reduce perceived wait time by effectively managing customer traffic and reducing actual wait times.

A queue management system is any process designed to organize and manage the flow of people who come in for a service.

When there is no specific order to handle customer traffic, everywhere soon becomes rowdy. 

For the service provider, the outcome will be bottlenecks and poor service delivery. For the customers, the outcome will be long wait times and frustration. 

You can implement different types of queue management systems to manage customer traffic - linear, virtual, multiline, etc. 

Each QMS offers a systematic way to serve customers. It provides insights into service efficiency, helping you allocate resources efficiently so that there’s enough staff to attend to customers at all times.

By optimizing the flow of customers, Queue Management Systems reduce waiting times, leading to better customer experience. 

14. Have a fair queue discipline

A fair queue discipline reduces perceived wait times by eliminating the frustration of being unfairly treated. Queue discipline is the rule determining the formation of a queue and how customers are picked from the queue to be served. 

The most common queue discipline is “First come, First served (FIFO)”.

A fair queue discipline creates transparency in service allocation. When customers see that you are following established criteria for serving people in the queue, they are more likely to accept and tolerate wait times. 

But, when they see people jumping the queue, they’ll feel that their wait is unreasonable, increasing the likelihood of feeling frustrated.

15. Optimize Staff Allocation

Optimizing staff allocation helps reduce perceived wait times by ensuring a smoother service process and minimizing delays. Optimizing staff allocation means assigning service personnel based on demand patterns. 

That is, you provide more service persons when demand is high and reduce them when demand is low. 

Doing this ensures you are not understaffed during peak hours, helping you avoid long queues and customer frustration.

Customers will feel frustrated and overestimate wait time when they see that you do not have enough personnel to handle demand. 

So, distribute service personnel effectively, ensuring you always have enough staff on hand to handle customer demand.

Takeaway: Reduce perceived wait time to reduce negative service experience

No one likes waiting to access a service, and waiting can feel longer than it actually is. 

Thankfully, there are different ways to reduce perceived wait time without compromising service quality. The 15 strategies above are tested and trusted to help service providers reduce customers’ perceived wait times.

However, one of the most effective is using digital signage, as it has elements of many of the other methods. Digital signs can help you keep customers informed, distract customers from the passage of time, reinforce your branding, offer fresh content always, and more.

This is where Luna Screens comes in! Luna Screens is a cloud-based digital signage system that allows businesses to transform any screen into digital signs. Even with zero technical skill, Luna Screens allows you to create digital signs easily using customizable templates.

Whether you operate a bar, restaurant, retail store, salon, gym, or dental office, you can use Luna Screens’ digital signage to engage customers when they wait to access service, effectively reducing their perceived wait time and improving the overall customer journey.

Ready to reduce your customers’ perceived wait times with digital signage? Get Started with Luna Screens today!

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Copyright © 2024 Luna Screens. All Rights Reserved. Privacy policy
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All Rights Reserved. Privacy policy