Finding the Fun in Long Queues

Who enjoys being stuck behind a long queue of people exiting a theatre at the end of the show or at intermission? Who enjoys waiting in a long queue for the bathrooms? Who enjoys lining up for the entire interval to get an ice cream or a drink? I know that I certainly don’t and I would be willing to bet that most other theatregoers don’t enjoy this part of the night either.

Chevrolet, Disney Inspire Design Innovation with Test Track

Chevrolet, Disney Inspire Design Innovation with Test Track

Queuing represents one thing. The space which is currently being used for this purpose was not designed with the customer experience front of mind. There are a number of reasons for this phenomena. It could be that the space is being used for a completely different purpose than its intention. It could be that it was designed to make the operational elements incredibly easy. Or it could be that the space was designed for aesthetic appeal.

I’m not saying that any of these reasons are wrong. Spaces should have the flexibility to change and a positive user experience can’t be delivered without the ease of operational elements and interesting architecture to marvel over. But they should all start with the user experience. You can’t make ends meet without your customers so you need to start with the components required to achieve this then slot the operational and aesthetic elements around it.

And that brings me to the number one way to ruin an experience . . . queues.

Queues are never pleasant. They stand in the way of satisfying your needs for drinks, food, entry, exit and bathrooms and it can be mind-numbingly boring to watch each person slowly satisfy their needs. But it is too easy to fall into the ‘Well, that’s how it has always been done’ trap. Just because theatres have always had too few women’s bathrooms doesn’t mean that they always need to. Surely it is worth the sacrifice of a few seats to ensure that a majority female audience doesn’t spend the entire interval queueing for the restroom.

So how do you get around this?

It starts at the building design phase, looking at how people would like to ideally use the space and then bringing the reality as close to their expectation as possible. Then, it requires some special tricks.

I’m going to fall back on Disney for this one. Disney runs some of the world’s most popular theme parks so it would be reasonable to expect queues. However, they use two little tricks to decrease the impact of this negative experience which often leaves customers frustrated.

Firstly, they distract you. The most boring queues occur when there is nothing to look at while you are waiting. There are only so many times you can read the nearby signs before tuning out, so make sure that your customers don’t have to. Disney moves their queues through different experiential areas. As you wind your way towards the front of the line there are always new things to observe, different surroundings to take in and exciting new things to see that represent the wonderful experience you are about to have.

Secondly, they make you feel like you keep moving. As soon as customers stop they start to feel frustrated. All of a sudden, they had moved so quickly through the theme park or the theatre to get to this point and now they have a sixteen-person deep obstacle in their way. What if they have to walk a fair distance to get to the back of the queue? Not only is this a reminder about how bad the queue could be, the audiences already feel like they are already making progress. And this movement keeps away any feelings of stagnation and the accompanying frustration!

Using public spaces differently is something that is rarely thought about in the theatrical world, but it could make all the difference in the customer experience. Make sure they are entertained and make sure that they are always moving forward and the queueing experience could be even more satisfying than what is waiting at the front!

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