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Waiting Queues: How They Affect Sales and Customer Experience

The Hidden Cost of Waiting Queues: Impact on Sales and Customer Experience

Nothing scares away a customer eager to buy more than a long waiting line. In the universe of shopping, both in airports and in stores, waiting time has become the enemy silent sales and customer satisfaction. The sight of a long line is often enough reason to discourage impulsive or planned purchases alike. At airports, where travelers are already pressed for time, a long line means the difference between an additional sale and a lost customer who decides to spend their time on a more relaxing activity. In the field of retail, queues are equally perverse, since it is estimated that poor management of them can lead to sales losses of up to USD 20,000 per month in small establishments and astronomical figures of up to USD 500,000 in large stores.

Poor management of waiting lines can lead to sales losses of up to USD 20,000 per month in small establishments and astronomical figures of up to USD 500,000 in large stores.
In the image there is a mystical crystal ball and inside it you can see a line of waiting people approaching a counter. The crystal ball is located on top of gold coins. The main colors are aqua green and orange
Waiting lines can represent great sales opportunities

Measuring Waiting Queues: A Complex but Crucial Challenge

Although the philosophy of measuring to manage is not new, its application to measuring waiting queues takes various forms. Below are some strategies for measuring queue indicators.

Method 1: Measuring waiting queues according to the number of transactions

The simplest method to measure waiting queues consists of reviewing the transactions that are generated at the counters. It can be a simple review of the ticket cadence in a store; or for example, the number of people served in a Check In line at an airport.

In this way it is possible to know if the counters are saturated, that is, if they are at maximum attention capacity for long periods.

This method, although easy to measure, implies ignorance of what is really happening in physical space. That is to say, it cannot be determined whether there were long waiting lines or whether the service capacity was adequate at all times.

Method 2: Measuring waiting queues according to the number of people waiting

A more sophisticated form of measurement involves analyzing the number of people waiting their turn and those being served by video analytics. As a plus point, this practice allows us to dimension the size and magnitude of the waiting queues.

As a point against it, it is impossible to know through this means how long people waited and whether this time was excessive or acceptable. It can be a long waiting line but it moves very quickly, and that is generally no problem!

Method 3: Measuring waiting queues according to the number of people waiting and the number of people serving

This third method involves adding the number of people serving the public to the measurement. With this information it is possible to make an estimate by calculating the waiting time from the average time a customer is served for each person being served. The usual formula to calculate the waiting time from these variables is:

Waiting time = Average service time * People waiting / People serving

A diagram explaining how to calculate the waiting time in a waiting queue based on the number of people waiting and the number of people serving.
Simplified model for calculating waiting time in a waiting queue

As an advantage, this method allows us to estimate the waiting time that a person will have in a given situation of the number of people waiting and the number of people serving. That is, this method allows us to estimate the waiting time at a given time, but it does not allow us to actually measure how long each person waited. Attention capacity is likely to rise and fall dynamically over time, and this estimate ignores such queue dynamics.

Method 4: Accurate measurement of waiting times

The most accurate method is to measure exactly how long customers or passengers were waiting in a store queue (Checkouts, fitting rooms, returns, etc.) or at an airport friction point (Check In). , Migrations, etc.).

This is a technical feat that, due to its complexity, is eluded by many systems, although not all. Technological products such as KSI VISION have managed to overcome this obstacle, offering precise data on the exact time each customer is waiting in the waiting queue.

A diagram showing how waiting times are measured in a waiting queue
Exact measurement of waiting and service times in a waiting queue

This information can be obtained by tracking people from start to finish completely anonymously and without facial recognition (an activity that is being prohibited in the EU for this type of use cases).

The Importance of Accurately Measuring the Waiting Time of Each Customer

Accuracy is the key to exceeding expectations in the era of the informed and hustling customer. Systems that accurately measure individual wait time not only provide vital data to optimize processes and increase efficiency; They also open the door to a deep understanding of how waits impact service perception. With this information, companies can implement strategies to reduce queues, improve customer experience and, consequently, boost sales.

A heat map of waiting queues
Heat map of waiting time in each part of the waiting queues

How to Choose a Waiting Queue Measurement System

When evaluating systems for measuring waiting queues, we recommend that you verify the following characteristics:

  • Ability to detect organic waiting queues. Organic waiting queues are those that form improvised and are not always located in the same place

  • Multi-camera detection. Ability to detect and join long waiting queues that develop in large spaces covered by more than one camera

  • Real-time detection. Verify that information is available and accessible in real time to take automatic efficiency actions

  • Measurement of care personnel. It is recommended that you also measure the number of service personnel at all times to be able to optimize the operational management of waiting queues

  • Exact measurement of waiting time. By measuring the time each customer spent waiting, you will be able to understand if waiting times are acceptable or if bad customer experiences are being generated in your spaces

  • Measurement of abandonment in waiting queues. Abandonment represents people who have gotten tired of waiting and have left the waiting queue without going through the service area

  • Measurement of customer defection due to long waiting queues. Desertion is the increase in the customer bounce rate that occurs due to long waiting queues

A layout with points that represent people in the detection of waiting queues in real time in KSI VISION
Detection of waiting queues in real time in KSI VISION

How to Take Advantage of Waiting Queue Management Did you know that there is a method that allows physical stores to earn up to 500,000 extra euros per month?

Although managing physical stores is not easy and requires professional management of marketing, merchandising, team management, (etc.), there are some quick methods that will increase the sales of your stores.

We have all experienced going to a store and finding a long waiting line. In this situation, more than 30% of customers become discouraged and do not make the purchase. Basically, what is happening is that waiting lines negatively affect sales.

How can you measure and solve it in 3 steps? Pretty simple:

1. First you must calculate the number of hours per month that the waiting lines exceed 10 people (or 8 or 5 people if you want to be more demanding). If you don't know this number, you can measure or estimate it in several ways. You can consult me without obligation.

2. Then you must multiply that number by 70 (this number comes from the conversion, visits and abandonment rate, it may vary depending on your type of business) That account will give you the estimate of the amount of sales you have lost due to abandonment.

Let's say you measured 40 hours of long lines per month, this implies:

40 x 70 = 2,800 lost sales

If the average ticket in your stores is 20 dollars, it corresponds to 56,000 dollars/month of billing!

3. Now that you know how much you can recover, you should think about investing to increase your attention capacity during peak hours.You can surely think of several options for your type of business!

In our experience, we have seen this effect in large and small stores alike (around 20 thousand euros / month for smaller stores, and up to 1 million euros / month in large stores).

Remember that, in addition to the benefit, you will provide a much better customer experience, so it is a win-win. It's worth keeping in mind!

A calculator, bills, coins and accounting papers on a wooden table
Waiting queue management has multiple benefits that you can take advantage of

Final Conclusions on How Waiting Lines Affect Sales

Patience is a virtue that seems to be in short supply in the fast-paced business world. A poorly managed queue can be the Achilles heel of any business, sinking sales and destroying customer loyalty. Having the technology that allows these times to be accurately measured is not only a luxury, but an imperative necessity for those seeking to succeed in today's competitive market. Adopting these systems is investing in the future of the business, ensuring that every customer who enters leaves with a positive experience and, most importantly, with a purchase in hand.

If you want to know more, do not hesitate to contact us here.


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