8 Ways to Reduce Queuing Time in Retail Stores

3 min read
Sep 5, 2012

Whilst nearly all shoppers rationally expect some form of waiting around, it doesn’t mean they enjoy it. Regardless of the queue method, the queuing time is the main factor, which shapes and influences the customer’s opinion of a service.

Essentially, the key to customer satisfaction is no waiting time as long queues lead to customer dissatisfaction. So what can you do to help influence waiting times and improve customer satisfaction?

What is queuing time?

Queuing time refers to the length of time a patron of your establishment spends waiting until he or she is attended to by a member of staff in order to complete a transaction, obtain information or be given access to a particular facility.

Queues are a way to manage large volumes of individuals in an orderly manner with the limited resources you have at your disposal. Queuing time, therefore, increases or decreases depending on the economic factors affecting your business’ ability to serve its customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Real and perceived queuing time

You’ve probably heard of “real” and “perceived” time: the time that people have had to wait and the time they think they’ve had to wait. A survey of shoppers found that people’s perception of elapsed time when waiting is fairly accurate up to a minute and a half; after this point, they tend to over estimate how long the wait was. This means they will have a negative perception of the overall queuing time. So to help increase customer loyalty, consider ways to reduce this perception. 


8 top tips to reduce queue time

  1. Have a staff member initiate contact with customers early in the queue

Being spoken to by a member of staff, before reaching the checkout, will cut the perceived time for customers. Also, if there is a particular reason for the delay, then they could approach the queue and explain to the customers the reason for the wait.

  1. Walk around the area yourself

For customers, who have to wait for a long time, having a senior member of staff nearby can be reassuring.  You can also interact with the customers (as in the first tip), perhaps by answering their questions.

  1. Give the customers an indication of when their wait will be over

It will make the process for the customer seems more finite, rather than endless. If appropriate, consider putting up an electronic counter that displays the time left to queue, giving customer’s a point of reference.

  1. Keep your queues single file

If the queue is well-managed and orderly, then it removes the element of doubt about who is next in line, as customers know exactly where they are in the queue. Using single file queues limits uncertainty of who is next, making time go ‘faster’.

  1. Dot staff around the shop floor

It’s very frustrating for customers to have to hunt hard to find a sales assistant or queue for a long time, just to ask a simple question. By placing staff on the shop floor, this removes the inconvenience and irritation for customers of having to queue twice: once to make an enquiry and once to make a purchase.

  1. Entertain the customers while they wait

You could install monitors that play some kind of well-known family-friendly film that people associate with happiness. If there’s room, put some interesting merchandise near to your waiting area, giving customer’s something to browse as they wait. Any of your attention-diverting techniques should be targeted towards the 2nd or 3rd person in the queue – the first person will be too busy watching for the cashier’s signal.

  1. Don’t use single cash drawers

Some retail establishments still use single cash drawers for security reasons, but the sight of checkout staff jostling each other to withdraw and enter money extends perceived time waiting, and reduces customer confidence.

  1. Avoid overusing security tagging

Some stores, particularly supermarkets, have started putting their more high-end cosmetics and other smaller items into clear security tagged boxes. This can discourage customers from purchasing, if the queue is already long, as they know they’ll have to wait for the cashier remove the security devices on their purchases.


These actions may seem simple, however they can have big impacts on the level of service your customers receive. Queues can be reduced further by installing a queue management system that cleverly deploys cashiers based on customer demand.

Irisys are a world leading supplier of intelligent queue management systems - our queue management solutions are used daily by supermarkets and grocers around the world to optimise their service. Check out our queue management success stories or get in touch to find out more.

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