Designers at restaurants, theme parks and elsewhere have investigated how to make waiting in line more pleasant. What they have learned has profound implications for all managers.
At some point, every manager has had to tell someone to wait. In the factory, this can lead to stockpiles of goods or bottlenecks. When people are involved, it can lead to inefficiency and anger. But the psychological impact of waits can be managed, and studies in design show us how. In places where waits are required, some basic principles can not only make waiting more pleasant but also can make them not feel like waits at all.
Sometimes inducing a wait can improve customer experience. When waits are inevitable, the research
shows, the goal should be to optimize the experience for both customers and employees, thereby
enhancing customer satisfaction and reducing employee stress and turnover. This research can help
managers in many situations, even those not involving lines. There are three main lessons managers can
take from how designers manage lines: Manage understanding with fair practices and open communication, manage perceived fairness by reframing what waiting is, and manage memories, because they last much longer than the event itself.