These Unknown Insights Into Human Psychology Will Help You Design Great Customer Journeys


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Ask anyone whether they like standing in line and the answer will almost invariably be ‘no’. But despite the rise of the Internet and mobile smartphones in this, the age of the customer, the point at which customers and products or services meet is usually a physical space, whether it is a high street store, a bank, a hospital waiting room or a major sport event.

At most events today you can buy tickets online, get them shipped home or download them to your iPhone Wallet. The tennis tournament Wimbledon is one of the few major sporting events where you can buy tickets on the day–if you are prepared to wait in line.

Being in the business of customer journey management this got me a bit intrigued.

Why waiting is a concern

If people have to wait, then they are often concerned with:

  • Uncertainty – lower uncertainty yields higher customer satisfaction
    • where and how shall I queue?
    • which queue shall I choose (if several queues are available), which will be the fastest?
    • how long will the wait be?
  • Unfairness – lower perceived unfairness yields higher customer satisfaction
    • unfairness between customers, i.e. “first come first served” or “most deserving first” is important
    • “attribution” – whose fault is it that I have to wait
  • Actual length of the waiting – shorter waiting yields higher customer satisfaction
    • longer waits make uncertainty and unfairness more important
  • Perceived length of the waiting – shorter waiting yields higher customer satisfaction
    • waiting time usually over-estimated by customers if not properly managed by the service provider

So from the above it’s easy to see that the actual waiting time only partly explains the customer satisfaction.

The psychology behind waiting

The reason why queues form is quite simple to answer: there are more customers than people to serve them. The more interesting question is how it makes us feel – the emotional side of the coin. When professionals in queue management approach this challenge we use the following propositions:

  • Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time
  • People want to get started
  • Anxiety makes waits seem longer
  • Uncertain waits are longer than known waits
  • Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits
  • Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits
  • Solo waits feel longer than group waits
  • The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait

My top tips to Wimbledon – And any other major sport event

When people buy tickets to Wimbledon waiting in line is expected. One could also argue that they regard the event as valuable which means that they can endure longer waits – at least in theory. But what could the organizer’s do to relieve some of the pain of standing in line?

It’s about safeguarding that the process is as smooth as possible, they should have clear signage, make sure that they have “all hands at deck” and that the visitors feel that everyone is doing their best to make the queue move as fast as possible.

They can also proactively work on impacting the perceived waiting time which for people actually matters more than the actual waiting time. They could deploy “relevant distraction”; it could be large media screens displaying fun and engaging material or in line entertainment very much as they do at Disney World.

How gamification engages and relieves pain

Or they could use a new product for the mobile smartphone – the first ever combined queue management application and gaming experience for a smartphone – Myfunwait™.

Surveys indicates that 83% of people use their phone while waiting for something. 54% of people use their phone for playing games. The largest amusement park in Sweden, Liseberg has taken this to heart and very successfully implemented a synchronized gaming experience for people waiting in line.

People play games relevant to the rides, they can only play when in line – and every 15 minutes a winner is announced and he gets to jump the queue.

An innovative and fun way to engage people with the brand and at the same time reduce their perceived waiting time.

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
Video Clip: Youtube

Sven-Olof Husmark
Sven-Olof is the founder of Experify, a business consultant firm, Senior Advisor at Egain Group a pioneer in intelligent AI driven energy optimization of buildings and former CMO at Qmatic Group, a world leader in creating better customer journeys.Sven-Olof is a senior executive with demonstrated success in growing companies globally by initiating effective sales, marketing and customer service strategies.


  1. Thanks for the great insights and tips. It not only applies to waiting in line for an event but also to the more mundane acts of waiting for a train or a customer service rep! Are you aware of any studies that quantify the negative financial impact of waiting?

  2. Hi Ann,

    Thank you for the comment. Some resources for you.

    Some interesting facts from Qmatic (
    – A third of customers resport that they’ve abandoned their cart at checkout when forced to wait more than 5 minutes.
    – Customers become frustrated after less than 3 minutes of no obvious progress of the queue.
    – The pace of “walk-outs” at a Pharmacy triples at around 8-12 minutes waiting time.

    This is an interesting white paper series on the topic:

    Article in New York Times on waiting in line:


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