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3 Ways to Ease Customer Wait Times and Build Your Business

At one time or another, we’ve all been there — stuck in a queue, waiting somewhere for something.

Sitting, watching, waiting, looking at our watches. While waiting, maybe you nabbed a terribly wrinkled, outdated Sports Illustrated or People on the table or wall mounted magazine rack.

Or maybe you are standing in line, which is a completely different ball of wax,  if balls of wax were horribly boring.  Which they are, I think.

Queues are different for all businesses and usually involve some sort of waiting room or line to gather up customers until it is their turn to be next.

Richard Larson, director of the Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals at MIT has been researching queuing psychology for more than two decades.  A research study of his from 2008 found that, surprise surprise – “eliminating empty time, makes wait times seem shorter.” (article)

What is your businesses queue?  Do you have an area where customers wait?


What do you do to ease those boring wait times ?

Mobile web predictions are everywhere, and I’m not one to make any of those.  But, I will say that as mobile web becomes more prevalent, you have a terrific opportunity not only to ease wait times, but also build your business by offering some content to folks as they wait.

Here are a few ideas I’ve used or seen to deliver content.

Insert QR Codes

According to Nielsen, 28% of all cell phones in the U.S. are now of the smartphone variety.  This is a great opportunity to use a service like Kaywa to create a QR code that folks can scan with a QR Reader App that will open a video, a mobile site, or even pop up a phone number for them to save.

IDEA: Develop videos for customers in different stages in your business cycle and have them scan the code upon checking in or have multiple codes customers can choose from. For example, new customers could scan a QR code that would prompt a welcome video after checking in at the front desk.  Return customers may be directed to content that shows them what is new.

Insert Texting

Recently, I worked with a quick service food restaurant located in a mall to build their texting list by inserting posters within eye view of the folks waiting in line.  The posters said “Pssst, want free food?” with instructions of the keyword and phone number to text.  The result in one week was a 500% increase in subscribers over the last 10 months.

IDEA: Subscribe to a service like Boomtext or Opt-it, develop an offer, and create signage that fits best in the line area (in the example above we used11 x 17 posters).

Insert Technology

There is a local dentist who uses iPads to collect patient information at check-in.  After filling out the info, the patient is permitted to hang on to the iPad until they see the dentist.

IDEA: Maybe iPads are an expensive example for your business, but there may be cheaper options.  Maybe you have a podcast?  Purchase a few iPod Nanos with the latest episodes already uploaded.  Make sure you provide wipes for the earbuds (eww, gross).

Perhaps you may consider “losing control” of your marketing, as David Meerman Scott suggests, and offer up a Flip Video camera or two and politely suggest that folks do a testimonial or chronicle their time in the waiting room.  Might make for some great video to use on your site, blog, emails or social media sites.

Whether it is by providing content or building engagement, customer queues give you a great opportunity to fill dead time to your and your customer’s advantage.


What have you done to fill that dead time?  Any of the above?  Anything different?