On average, each of us spends close to six months of our lives standing in line."

In today’s fast-paced world, it can sometimes feel as though our days are getting shorter. Spending our precious leisure time standing in line is, to put it mildly, less than ideal. On average, each of us spends close to six months of our lives standing in line. What’s worse is that six months probably feels like nine months, as we tend to overestimate the time we’ve spent in line by an average of 36%.

Businesses have employed a range of tactics to try to distract us and mitigate our frustration. But the question remains: what can businesses actually do to reduce waiting times, or are queues simply an unavoidable and tedious part of our customer experience?

Mobile phones offer several solutions for minimising the dread we encounter while standing in line –and could remove the need to wait altogether. While we can burn a few minutes by mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, the reality of our situation will eventually return to us when we realise we’re still stuck in the queue. However, new payment technology on our mobile phones is removing the most time-consuming component of clearing a queue, which is often the purchase itself.

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Tyson Hackwood, Asia-Pacific head of Braintree, the next-generation mobile payment system provider behind disruptive new companies such as Uber and AirBnB, says smart businesses are streamlining their customer service models through mobile apps that allow them to reduce friction at every point of the service process.

“As payments experts, advising on these customer experience issues is a big part of how we serve our merchants in improving their bottom line,” Hackwood says. “For example, at Guzman Y Gomez you’ll sometimes find long queues during peak hour but their mobile app uses click and collect, which allows customers to jump the queue and get in and out with their food. Before they even arrive, they can browse the menu, order for multiple people and make a simple payment through the app, all of which eliminates their need to line up.”

The ability to buy a delicious burrito on your lunch break without waiting in line is undoubtedly one of humankind’s greatest triumphs, but how can this model be applied to other scenarios? Remember waiting in line at the bank or the post office to pay a bill? Thankfully, we did away with that necessity years ago and 74% of us now use our mobile phones to pay our bills, according to research from Paypal. But there are still many situations where waiting in line is simply part and parcel of the experience.

(Un)amusement parks

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The frontline in queue-busting is in amusement parks. Queuing up for a ride can test the limits of even the most patient of souls, particularly when sugar-fuelled rug-rats make up the majority of those in the line. Research has shown the stress and anxiety felt while waiting in line can be mitigated by reducing your awareness of the line itself, which is why amusement parks deploy a variety of manoeuvres to attract your attention away from your predicament.

The masters of this maze of distraction are Disney, whose gargantuan theme parks still attract record numbers of visitors. Parents are amazed at their children’s ability to wait an hour for a five-minute ride as they queue next to countless food stalls, toy stores and singing animatronic animals, while the queue itself meanders its way between buildings that subtly block the full view of its actual length.

One company seeking to provide another solution is Roller Digital, another innovative client of Braintree. Roller Digital is an Australian-based business that specialises in providing digital solutions to entertainment businesses such as amusement parks and events.

74% of us now use our mobile phones to pay our bills, according to research from Paypal."

A key component of the solutions Roller provides is the facility for customers to pre-purchase tickets and avoid queues when they arrive at the gate. Founder and CEO of Roller Luke Finn says this can unfortunately backfire on businesses who don’t clearly identify a separate queue for customers who have pre-purchased their tickets, as their level of satisfaction is quickly diminished when they realise they’re being made to wait needlessly.

“From our own research, we see avoidable bottlenecks where venues attempt to funnel every customer into a single line, so we always impress the importance of a separate line for those people who have purchased online. We also suggest to our clients they encourage customers to pull out their mobile phone while they’re waiting in line, as the checkout system we offer has the Braintree system loaded into it, so they’re able to purchase tickets really quickly and avoid waiting in a longer line.”

Christine Rodrigues, Braintree’s Partnerships Manager, says businesses looking to enhance their customer service model through similar digital solutions need to ensure these solutions are properly integrated throughout the business to ensure they actually achieve the desired effect of improving customer experiences.

“It could be your finance team or your technology team that’s bought into a digital solution for pre-purchasing tickets or products and reducing queues but it’s essential the data from these solutions is shared right throughout the business. If the information these solutions gather isn’t passed on to your operations team or on-ground staff, you aren’t maximising the benefits that the technology offers.”

Voting with their feet

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One of the most dreaded queues in the past was the late-night taxi rank after nightclubs ejected patrons at closing time. With thousands of inebriated partygoers queueing for hours in taxi ranks, tempers quickly flared and violence often broke out.

These days, people leaving nightclubs can simply pull out their mobile phone and instantly order an Uber to take them home. While the taxi industry was understandably riled by the appearance of Uber in their marketplace, the customer service model spoke for itself as it gave customers a faster and more reliable option for transport. Futhermore, the need for paying at the end of the trip with cash or credit cards was eliminated with Braintree’s seamless automated payment system.

With mobile technology enabling us to skip queues everywhere we go, the days of waiting in line might be numbered. As more of these digital solutions for self-service come online, our appetite for controlling our own destiny as customers grows by the day. With increasing numbers of forward-thinking businesses offering us the chance to save precious time during our interactions, we become significantly less patient and more unwilling to wait if a quicker and more convenient option exists.

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