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British reserve crumples in the face of poor queue etiquette

Vanessa Walmsley

Over half of us quietly fume when someone pushes in front of us, and over 80  percent of the UK population will not tolerate queuing for more than ten minutes.

The British are still defining themselves in terms of cups of tea, talking about the weather and queuing. But according to the findings of research issued today by Qmatic UK Ltd, which leads the market in customer journey management technology solutions, the famous British reserve appears to be cracking under the pressure and frustration of standing in line. Only 18 percent of us are now happy to spend over ten minutes in a queue – in fact the average wait time for the overwhelming majority of British consumers is now 7.7 minutes. We are also getting more sophisticated when it comes to managing our time at the check-out, following the rapid introduction of self-service tills in recent years.  Roughly one quarter of the survey sample stated that they would select a till based on the length of the queue, a further quarter opted for self-service as a first choice, while just over a quarter still preferred the human touch.

Any more than five people in front of us in a queue is now regarded as totally unacceptable by three quarters of the population, with some 48  percent of us simply giving up and leaving. And queue jumpers beware: the famous British reserve has collapsed as just over 40  percent of us will call out someone for queue-jumping in public. The days of simply tutting, sighing and doing nothing are over with only 28  percent of us prepared to admit that this is as far as we would go in terms of complaining.

Vanessa Walmsley, Managing Director of Qmatic UK Ltd, stated: “We undertook this research to try and identify the personalities of the British when queuing. Each and every one of us has to stand in a queue at some stage in any week of the year and our behaviour defines us as individuals and as a nation. In this ‘always-on’ consumer world we now live in, retailers, the NHS and the public sector all have to be awake to the fact that attitudes to queuing have dramatically changed and our expectations in getting connected to services need to be addressed.

“We found that not only do we not like standing in line patiently, we actively dislike queue-jumpers, those who invade our personal space and those customer service operations that appear to be non-responsive to increases in demand. It is not as if consumers don’t have choices: they do. So for both private and public sector organisations that put customer service at the heart of their operation, understanding consumer behaviour will be critical and delivering solutions that reduce friction throughout the customer journey, essential,” continued Vanessa.

Key findings include: Our top three national characteristics are cups of tea (52  percent), talking about the weather (38  percent) and queuing (37  percent); 81  percent of the sample stated that they would wait up to 10 minutes in a queue; the average wait time for many consumers only being 7.7 minutes in total; Men will wait an average of 7.3 minutes, while women appear to be more tolerant and are happy to wait just over 8 minutes; Selecting a queue is now an art form. 27  percent of us select a queue based on its length, 27  percent always go to a manned till and 24  percent are now always opting for self-service; 35  percent of UK consumers are convinced that Returns Desks are the longest followed by retail customer services at 28  percent and retail banking customer services desks also at 28  percent; If the queue in front has more than five people in it, 76  percent of us will simply give up and leave; 52  percent of the sample stated that queue-jumpers were their biggest pet hate when standing in line, followed by invasion of personal space (34  percent) and closed tills or customer service desks (24  percent); British reserve is under strain with over 41  percent of us happy to call out a queue jumper; 29  percent happy to tut and sigh, and a staggering 58  percent likely to just leave an existing queue to find another.

Psychologist Donna Dawson, said: “Queuing may be recognised as a national British trait, but the nature of it has changed completely. As many of us now have busier and more demanding schedules, we are less prepared for people and services to waste our precious time – so if a queuing problem is not dealt with and we can’t do something ourselves to lessen the wait, then we are quite prepared to vote with our feet and leave. In fact, this shows that another British trait is coming to the fore: a sense of ‘fair play’. In today’s world, we are quite prepared to speak up when someone such as a queue-jumper infringes our feelings of fairness!”

Vanessa concluded: “Providing a seamless customer experience, regardless of whether this is an online journey or a physical one is essential. Understanding and managing this omnichannel customer journey and reducing friction right through to check-out is key in delivering improved customer experience and brand loyalty in the retail sector. By partnering with a vendor who understands the fundamentals behind the customer journey, retailers can enhance the overall experience for their customers.”

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