Reduce wait times at queue lines and keep customers happy during service delays

June 6, 2022

Long queue lines are a good problem to have: when your business is growing and attracting new customers, the checkout lines are bound to get busier during peak hours. However, to keep customers happy and maximize profits you need to reduce wait times.

Having queue lines isn’t the problem: it’s slow service times that prevent the line from moving efficiently. This can affect the customer experience and lead to lost sales. Luckily, we’ve got some actionable tips to help you.

Do you know how long your customers are waiting?
You can do it with your existing video surveillance and Solink.

How Customers Perceive Waiting Time

The Journal of Consumer Behaviour published a study on Customer’s perceived value of waiting time for service events. According to the study, the total wait time in any service situation (such as a bank or restaurant) can be divided into three cycles. In a quick service restaurant (QSR) or coffee shop, the three cycles are:

Pre-process: Customer is in line waiting to make an order.

In-Process: Customer is at the counter, gives his order to the employee, and pays.

Post-Process: Customer waits for their order to be ready

Surprisingly, the pre-process cycle has the greatest influence on how customers perceive waiting times and service quality. A customer who has to wait 10 minutes in line before ordering will feel more dissatisfied than a customer who waits 10 minutes for their order to be prepared, even if the total service time for both customers is the same. Hence, this should be the first place you look to reduce wait times.

Research also shows that a customer’s perception of how long they waited has a much stronger influence on customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) than actual wait times.

The bad news is that people tend to overstate how long they waited since their perception is highly subjective and influenced by factors such as personality, expectations, being in a rush, etc. The good news is that:

  1. You can influence the way they experience waiting
  2. You can optimize your business operations to reduce the frequency of slow service times and long queues.

Step 1. Influence customers’ perception of waiting time during unexpected service delays

There are several practical things that managers can do to keep customers happy during unexpected service delays, such as being short on staff:

  1. Give customers clear and conservative information that will help them estimate their wait time. This reduces their level of anxiety caused by the uncertainty of the situation.
  2. Under promise, over deliver. The restaurant host can give customers a longer than expected waiting time, say 20 minutes. If customers end up waiting just 10 minutes, they will feel happier since they expected to wait twice as long.
  3. Fill the empty time. By giving customers something to do while they wait, time goes by faster. This is why there are magazines in waiting rooms, but the best option today is to provide free WiFi access to patrons, or make waiting games part of your brand culture (such as the interactive screen games in movie theatres).
  4. Do not give the impression of making the same mistake twice. Apologizing to a customer a second time about additional delays will only make them more upset than if you admit to service delays just once. Give them the worst case expected waiting time so you do not need to have a second conversation.

These are just some of the ways that your employees can improve customer experience.

Step Two: Reduce waiting time at queue lines

You can optimize your operations by using data already at your disposal: your video surveillance footage and POS transactional data. Here’s how.

Know your service level target

Call centers often use an “80/20” service level target, meaning that 80% of calls should be answered in 20 seconds.

The service level target can be defined as follows: the percentage of customers/calls/orders that should be served/answered/completed within a predefined time threshold.

When determining what your service level target should be, you want to find the right balance between your desire to deliver quality service versus the cost you’re willing to bear to achieve it.

For instance, a call center that adopts the 80/20 rule has determined that it isn’t profitable to hire additional staff in order to answer 100% of calls in 20 seconds. In most cases, it isn’t profitable to operate at full capacity all the time so it’s acceptable to have some service events outside of your target.

If you are having trouble meeting your service level target, consider looking into the ways that technology can improve customer service.

Ebr Speed On Solink
HOW SOLINK HELPS: Use our Discover dashboard to review the fastest and slowest sales of the day. Click through video data and footage for context. Is Jason slower than Maggie? But does Jason upsell an extra $2.00 per transaction? If so, maybe he’s got the best strategy.

Step 3. Using video surveillance and POS data as performance metrics and queue management

Now that you have your service level target, you can begin tracking actual service times using your POS data and surveillance video.

Whichever queue management system you decide to use, be sure that it integrates surveillance video since this is the best way to investigate what caused delays in service speeds or why a customer abandoned the checkout line. Solink’s cloud video surveillance system can search for POS transactions that have an order entry time above your target time. We enhance this exception-based reporting capability by matching it with your security camera footage.

Solink Heatmap Mockup
HOW SOLINK HELPS: There are many ways to evaluate customer flow with Solink; our heatmaps are our favorite. Figure out where the most activity takes place in your store using motion-based heatmaps, and then move product or queue areas to accommodate less congestion.

Step 4. Make changes and compare progress over time

Once you have the data, you can look at your store’s performance over a period of time and find any trends or outliers. Investigating these situations will uncover operational bottlenecks or other issues that cause slow service times.

Tips from your peers: reducing wait times

Based on Solink’s actionable insights, our customers offer these great tips for improving wait times:

  1. Optimize staffing levels: Trends in your sales history and service speed will help you to predict how busy you will be certain days or shifts of the week. Overall, 66% of Solink users say they save 1–10% on staff expenditures by reviewing their Solink platform regularly.
  2. Identify staff training needs: You can achieve better throughput by providing staff training in the areas that are needed most. Identify the employees or stores that have slower service times compared to the rest and investigate the transactions with slowest order time or longest time between orders. Indeed, 42% of Solink users report saving 12 hours a month using Solink’s video surveillance and POS integration data to identify theses kinds of problems.
  3. Find inefficiencies or bottlenecks: By removing an inefficient step or a bottleneck in the operational process, you can shave seconds, or even minutes, from the average order time. You don’t have to leave these discoveries to chance if you have the right analytical tools. In fact, 92% of Solink users report that they save 5–20% on their business operations costs by reviewing their day with Solink.


Businesses are already collecting data that can help them improve operations and service times. It’s just a matter of using the right analytical tools to find the right information, making smart changes, and tracking the success of your hard work.

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