Friday, November 27, 2009

Queue Management

Last Sunday the Boston Globe magazine ran a short but fascinating interview of MIT professor Dick Larson who specializes in the science and psychology of waiting in line. Today, the thought of a waiting line at the registry seems like a foreign concept, but just a few years ago we were inundated with customers and serving them promptly and efficiently was a top priority. Because everything related to real estate runs in cycles, things will get busy again sometime in the future, so it never hurts to think about updating and improving our procedures.

Larsen is a big fan of what he calls the serpentine line which is a single line that feeds multiple stations (think Wendy’s). Because this type of line guarantees that the first person in line will be the first person served, people are much more patient when waiting in one than when in “parallel lines” which is what you find in the typical supermarket. How many times have you pulled your carriage of groceries into Aisle 5 and then waited while people who joined the line in Aisles 4 and 6 before you get waited on? That’s the definition of frustration.

The best line management in America, according to Larsen, is practiced at Disney parks and Apple stores. It might be tough getting to Orlando any time soon, but I will certainly pay a visit to the newly opened Apple Store at the Pheasant Lane Mall to conduct some additional field research.

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