Making time fly: ISU professor studies how to moderate waiting time with customers

Jan 25, 2008

We've all been there. You decide to go out for dinner and after being seated, you can't get service from the wait staff. Or you're at the airport waiting on flight delays and stuck in the customer service line, desperately trying to get answers.

Most people hate to wait. An Iowa State University marketing professor who studies waiting time and its emotional effect on consumers says how the experience goes may determine whether a customer comes back.

It may even create opportunity, says Deanne Brocato, an assistant professor of marketing at ISU.

"Even when you have a service failure (like longer wait times), what we see is that you can create a stronger bond with consumers, based on how you deal with it," she said.

Brocato worked with a research team on a study examining the waiting experiences of 844 customers in the banking and hair-cutting service industries (405 banking, 439 hair cutting) from two medium-sized metropolitan areas in the southeastern United States. The researchers found that five factors moderate perceived waiting time dissatisfaction and regret among consumers:

-- How wait time is filled
-- How customer anxiety is addressed
-- Whether commitment to the customer is demonstrated
-- Perceived justice
-- Quality physical environment

Brocato collaborated with Julie Baker, an associate professor of marketing at Texas Christian University; Clay Voorhees, an assistant professor of marketing and supply chain management at Michigan State University; Brian Bourdeau, an assistant professor of marketing at Auburn University; and J. Joseph Cronin, Jr., The Carl DeSantis Professor of Business Administration at Florida State University, on the study. They have authored a research paper, which is currently under review by an academic journal.

The paper cites a 2006 study by emarketer.com which found that consumers would rather clean their bathrooms, sit in traffic, or visit their dentists than stand in line. When they became too frustrated with waiting, 32 percent of consumers in that study reported that they left without purchasing anything, and 31 percent complained to a manager, staff or other customers.

The researchers provide the following advice to service firms on how to more effectively manage their customers' waiting experiences:

-- Distract customers from focusing on the wait. "If customers do not pay close attention to the delay, they may be less likely to think about how long they are waiting," wrote the researchers. They site examples of how airports now broadcast cable news on monitors in terminals, and how some restaurants provide customers with menus early in their wait.

-- Identify potential sources of waiting anxiety, and address them specifically. If customers are anxious because of the uncertainty over the wait, the authors recommend that managers provide them information about the estimated wait time and/or causes for the wait. Research also has shown that music can effectively reduce anxiety. And when customers' anxiety is due to situations unrelated to the service experience -- such as being late -- managers may be able to develop a process for identifying customers who have situational constraints and provide a way to expedite the service.

-- Decrease customers' perceptions of wait inequalities. The study suggests that, when feasible, managers might design different queues for different customer segments (i.e.: express, frequent flier gold/platinum, etc.) to ensure the procedures are deemed fair -- providing proper education and/or signage in the process.

-- Identify and insulate customers with affective commitment. "Customers with an affective commitment to a service organization provide a service firm with a strong customer base," the researchers wrote. "Therefore, management should make every attempt to see that this group of customers is not dissatisfied."

-- Design a more desirable atmosphere in which to wait. The study recommends that managers design comfortable places where waiting customers can sit and that they should make sure the temperature and noise levels are within customers' range of comfort. "Large windows overlooking a beautiful view and/or interesting art on the walls may distract customers from paying close attention to the time spent waiting for service," wrote the authors.

Brocato also sees self-service as another effective wait time option.

"There's another paper that I'm looking into where people go into the self-checkout and they actually are waiting longer, but they have control over their wait," she said. "So when you're in control, the wait seems shorter."

And when it comes to waiting, customer perception apparently is everything.

Source: Iowa State University

Explore further: Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Uber meets local lookalikes in Asia taxi-app wars

Apr 14, 2014

Riding on its startup success and flush with fresh capital, taxi-hailing smartphone app Uber is making a big push into Asia. There's a twist, though: Instead of being the game-changing phenomena it was in ...

Buoyant Airborne Turbine to harness winds in Alaska

Mar 26, 2014

(Phys.org) —Call it a power-transmitter in the sky. Better still, call it by its official name, the Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT ) which a company called Altaeros Energies will be launching soon in Alaska ...

Creativity and innovation need to talk more, study says

Apr 08, 2014

Creativity and innovation are not sufficiently integrated in either the business world or academic research, according to a new study by Rice University, the University of Edinburgh and Brunel University.

Recommended for you

Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

Apr 16, 2014

Science has often come to the rescue when it comes to the world's big problems, be it the Green Revolution that helped avoid mass starvation or the small pox vaccine that eradicated the disease. There is ...

Japan stem cell body splashes cash on luxury furniture

Apr 14, 2014

A publicly-funded research institute in Japan, already embattled after accusing one of its own stem cell scientists of faking data, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on designer Italian furniture, reportedly to use up ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

nilbud
not rated yet Jan 25, 2008
Why oh why do they not just hand you beers until the wait is over. If the queue is long enough you could be nicely toasted when you reach the counter, after having a pleasant chat with your new buddies in the queue.

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...