Time spent waiting in line is one of the biggest detractors from visitor happiness. No wonder, given it can be a significant proportion of the visitor’s time onsite; especially when you add up all the interruptions of delays throughout the visitor experience – which might impact parking, entry, experiences, shop, cafe and even restrooms. On the flip side, good queue management is therefore a significant competitive advantage to increase visitor spend, satisfaction and loyalty.
Measuring wait times at your attraction
To proactively manage waiting in your venue, first measure it to manage it. That in itself is no easy feat, though there are a number of ways to accomplish the task using footfall, presence, ticketing or simple observation. Next, take a look at its correlation to outcomes such as satisfaction and spend to get an idea of the opportunity cost created by waiting – data to inform the business case behind investments to improve. Referring to the mention of queue related themes in sentiment analysis from freeform visitor comments can also help quantify feedback on the topic. Based on this information, service level targets of the wait time expectation can be set and monitored against – or a clever interpretation of this Key Performance Indicator (KPI) incorporated into your visitor experience journey map, such as ‘Time to Ride’. Or the negative reverse: total ‘Time in Line’, perhaps as a percentage of overall dwell time.
Reducing queue wait time
Once your management framework is in place for queues, attention can turn to how to reduce wait times, depending on whether the queue is the result of throughput or capacity. For throughput, for example with a ticketing counter or security inspection, there may be many different options such as adding resources, improving rostering or goaling staff. Capacity is usually a more complex optimization challenge. For example, if the entire venue is capacity limited, it may be a case of encouraging reduced dwell times. If a particular experience is capacity limited, it may be an opportunity to create value such as through a fastpass upsell or member perk; or to split the queue to help optimize capacity with the use of a single riders line. If capacity can’t otherwise be addressed, the queue could be managed through timed passes – potentially in combination with walkups rather than an exclusive option.
Setting visitor expectation and being transparent
Simply setting visitor expectations and communicating transparency goes a long way to managing sentiment, such as through signage. To take this a step further, predicting queue wait times allows this to be communicated in advance to visitors during their planning phase, such as on the venue website, app or entrance. Forecasting wait times provides additional benefits, such as the ability to plan for additional resources to support queue comfort at peak times or even the ability to dynamically price fastpass offerings.
Making the queue a positive experience
An alternative approach is to create value for the visitor within the queue, or at least improve the experience of waiting to reduce its impact. For a start, make sure the crowd is dry, warm and hydrated with rest and restroom opportunities if expected to wait for long periods. Try to bring elements of the activity into the waiting area – objects from the exhibition that can be observed from the line, progressive themes from the experience that can be walked through or entertainment from an event to please the crowd. Selfie opportunities or Instagrammable moments can even turn this into a marketing opportunity, or clever design can make it feel like part of the experience, such as an introductory video viewing section. Another option is to bring cross sell in – demonstrate fun products from the store or sell food and beverages to keep hunger at bay. If nothing else, at least keep kids entertained – something as simple as a costumed character working the queue or play area nearby will do the trick.
Whether you reduce, expose or leverage wait times, taking control over this metric flips the queue from being a negative side effect into a positive lever for your guests – one that builds upon the visitor experience and potentially even creates revenue generating opportunities. There’s no time like the present to start with the first step of putting your wait time measures in place. What are you waiting for?