1. What does this case suggest about the way in

1. What does this case suggest about the way in which operations and queuing models must also address the psychology of waiting lines in formulating methods for minimizing wait?

2. Think of a long wait that you experienced in the past week. How would one or more of these attributes of waiting have improved your perception of the wait and increased your satisfaction with the service encounter?

3. Suppose you were hired to manage the operations flow at a local restaurant as the front-end manager. The most common complaint that the restaurant receives is the long wait times to get a table, and overall profitability is starting to suffer as a result of lower patronage rates. Employ at least four of these attributes in redesigning the front end to increase customer satisfaction.


Although much has been written about and calculated for the most efficient ways to minimize waiting lines and to reduce the losses from queuing, there is an equally important, but often overlooked issue, which is how waiting affects those stuck in queues. As FedEx (FedEx Corporation, Memphis, TN) noted years ago: “Waiting is frustrating, demoralizing, agonizing, aggravating, annoying, time consuming and incredibly expensive.”5 Consequently, there is a branch of psychology devoted to analyzing the waiting line problem and to considering how people typically respond to the requirement that they wait, sometimes for excessive periods of time, in lines. In reflecting on what modern psychological theory can teach us about customers and waiting lines, David Maister, a psychologist who has studied the psychological effects of waiting, formulated a set of principles to help businesses minimize the negative consequences of forcing customers to wait. He proposed that it is first critical to understand a simple idea as it pertains to customers: S = P – E.

In this equation, S stands for satisfaction, P for perception, and E for expectation. If you expect a certain level of service and perceive the service reviewed to be higher, you are a satisfied client. If you perceive the same level as before, but you expected a higher level, you are disappointed and, consequently, a dissatisfied client. Remember that both P and E are psychological ideas; they are not quantifiable but represent the attitudes of customers. As a result, all efforts that a company can make to improve P, the perception of the service encounter, are going to result in satisfied customers. In applying Maister’s ideas about waiting, business should consider the following psychological attributes of waiting:

1. Occupied time goes by faster than unoccupied time does. Time spent aimlessly waiting seems to drag on interminably. If, instead, customers can be engaged (or occupied) in some manner while they are waiting, they are less likely to feel that their time has been wasted. Disney is masterful at minimizing perceived waiting time for rides at their theme parks by providing a series of entertaining and engaging displays all along the waiting lines. The cost of these displays can sometimes run well over hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Disney knows that it is worth it to keep their customers occupied.

2. People want to get going. Uno Pizzeria & Grill (aka Unos, Chicago, IL) is famous for its deep-dish pizza, and lines form early to get a table at its flagship downtown restaurant. In fact, because deep-dish pizza takes so long to cook, customers can wait in line for well over an hour. That’s why Unos hands out menus in advance and offers waiting customers the opportunity to order drinks from the bar while they wait. Unos recognizes that letting people start early goes a long way toward improving their satisfaction.

3. The more the uncertainty, the longer the wait seems to take. When waiting on standby at an airline counter or hoping to be one of the first 50 customers to enter a department store for special deals on Black Friday, we naturally became anxious. Will they run out of the on-sale televisions I desire? Will I make my flight or not? The more information that people can be given, the less anxious they will be and the shorter the wait they will perceive. For example, at Toys “R” Us, Inc. (Wayne, NJ), an employee may leave the store and walk along the waiting line offering advance purchase tickets to the first 100 customers waiting for a new videogame console, thereby eliminating their anxiety.

4. Uncertain waits seem to last longer than do known, finite waits. Seemingly endless waits at doctor’s offices are frustrating, particularly when the receptionist clearly has no idea of how long the wait is likely to be. On the other hand, when all persons entering the doctor’s office are informed immediately that, “Due to an emergency, the doctor will be running 30 minutes late today,” their perception of the wait immediately improves. With a finite end in sight, waiting is not so stressful.

5. Unexplained waits seem to take longer than do waits that are explained to us. A corollary to point 4 suggests that when consumers lack knowledge of why a delay is occurring, their view of waiting is more negative. Think of roadwork occurring on an interstate highway, further ahead where you cannot see it. When traffic is stopped and there is no explanation for the cause, the perception is that the waiting time seems to drag along. On the other hand, smartphones accessing Uber cars (Uber Technologies, Inc., San Francisco, CA) for a pickup can track, using GPS, the exact location of the scheduled ride and observe the driver’s real-time status as the car heads to our location.

6. Unfair waits seem to take longer than do waits we perceive are equable. Watch a crowd waiting to get into a trendy nightclub as people are forced to queue behind a velvet rope. Over time, it may be possible for them to estimate how much longer before it is their turn to enter the club. Now, observe the reaction when a VIP guest skirts the line and walks directly to the bouncer at the front. When some customers are allowed to bypass the wait assigned to everyone else, it serves to make other waiting guests feel that their queuing time is much longer. In other situations, we know that many people will wait twice as long for fast food, provided the establishment uses a first-come, first-served, single-queue ordering system as opposed to a multiqueue setup. Anyone who’s ever had to choose a line at a grocery store knows how unfair multiple queues can seem; invariably, you wind up kicking yourself for not choosing the line next to you that appears to be moving twice as fast!

7. Waiting by yourself feels longer than does waiting with a group. When we feel isolated in our wait, as in the case of waiting for a takeout order at a restaurant or in a doctor’s office, we tend to perceive the waiting time as significantly longer than situations where a firm makes the wait more group-based. So, for example, if Disney assigns sets of 50 riders to a special prep room in advance of their ride experience, they perceive the wait as shorter and less burdensome than they do when they lack a sense of camaraderie.

No one relishes waiting and the more that organizations seek ways to minimize waits (improving perceptions of the waiting), the greater is customer satisfaction and by implication, the better customers are pleased with (and more loyal to) those organizations over time.

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