Queuing and Waiting

Service for Design points us to an article by Don Norman about the psychology behind waiting in lines. Norman offers ton’s of ideas and solutions about waiting in line, he also sheds some light on certain areas where waiting and lines can be used as tactics:

In theme parks the waits are deliberate. “What else would we do with the people?” I was once told by a high-level executive of one of the major theme park companies. “It is too expensive to add more rides.” Waits are unavoidable when there are more people than resources, so in this case, although the waiting was deliberate, the company’s response was to make those waits as enjoyable as possible.

Another interesting tidbit about waiting can be found over at Seth Godin’s site, he offers some invaluable advice on designing services, interestingly enough he also mentions theme parks as an example”

When there is both pain and pleasure associated with your service, work extremely hard to separate them by time and geography.

Disney charges a fortune for the theme park, but they do it a week before you get there, or at a booth far far away from the rides. By the time you get to the rides, you’re over it. The pain isn’t associated with the fun part.

I once had a teacher in high school who used to work at Disneyworld who said that he and his friends used to create lines their own outside random doors and wait as guests would get in line as well, without even knowing what the line was (or wasn’t) for. Maybe waiting in lines isn’t as horrible as we are programed to belive. There are instances where there is something exciting about waiting in line, look at the teeny boppers and there parents who waited over 36 hours this summer outside Rockefeller Plaza for a chance to see Miley Cyrus, or all those iPhone fans who camped out for days just to be the first to land their hands on the fresh, new merchandise.

Another article by Seth Godin brings up the iPhone and all the lines that form in it’s anticipation. He offers a few alternative solutions to to making lines easer, his advice:

Principle 1: Use the internet to form a queue. If you have a scarce product, you almost certainly know it’s scarce in advance. Instead of taxing customers by wasting their time, reward the early shoppers by taking orders online….

Principle 2: Give the early adopters a reward. In the case of Apple, I would have made the first 100,000 phones a different color. Then, instead of the buyer being a hero for ten seconds, he gets to be a hero for a year.

Principle 3: Treat different customers differently. Apple, for example, knows how to contact every single existing customer. Why not offer VIP status to big spenders? Or to those that make a lot of calls? Let them cut the line. It’s not fair? What’s fair mean? I can’t think of anything more fair than treating the people who treat you well, better.

Principle 4: When things happen in real time, you’re way more likely to screw up. One of the giant advantages of the Net is that you can fix things before the whole world notices. Try to do your rollout in small sections, so you can fix mistakes before you hurt the very people you’re trying to embrace.

Principle 5: Give your early adopters a forum to celebrate. A place to brag or demonstrate or show off or share insights and ideas. Amplify the heroes, which is far better than amplifying the pain of standing in line.


1 Comment»

  Maia wrote @

Seth Godin’s principles are really interesting in helping us think about how to turn the negative experience of waiting around by rewarding loyalty, early adoption and customer “heroism.” Trying to get hold of an iPhone 3G proved really frustrating in Rhode Island at least. Apple now offers a way of pre-ordering on the website:

Presumably this takes some of the frustration out of the long, uncertain wait many customers experienced, and also helps to separate the boring bureaucratic steps (“are you eligible? what plan do you want?”) from the fun of picking up your new iPhone.

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