Business

Long queues still vexing shoppers, survey suggests

A modern Post Office
Image caption Long queues still upset shoppers and can put them off altogether

More than two thirds of people have abandoned shopping because it was taking too long to be served, a survey says.

Barclays found 68% of people, in a survey of 2,000, had abandoned a queue at one time or another.

The places most likely to upset their customers were supermarkets and stores selling food, drink or clothes.

The main dislikes included not enough staff at the till, followed by staff taking too long chatting to customers.

Shoppers taking too long to find their cash, cards or cheque books was also an irritation, and Barclays argues "contactless" payment technology would speed things up.

"By embracing technology and installing new payments systems, such as contactless, retailers will stay ahead of the curve and limit the amount of time that people are waiting in shop queues," said Stuart Neal at Barclaycard.

But Terry Green, whose firm Qmatic designed the queueing systems used in Post Offices, said there were other ways to keep customers in line.

"Those kinds of systems which give you feedback, that tell you that service is progressing, make the queue 'sticky' and stop people walking away because they manage their expectations," he said.

Annoyance

The survey revealed that long queues had also put off most people entering shops or stores, with 29% of those surveyed saying this happens to them at least once a week.

Barclays claims that a third of retailers actually move their tills to hide the queues.

However, retail consultant Claire Rayner said that the managers of many stores are told by their bosses to reduce queueing times, recognising the annoyance that long queues can cause and the possibility of a customer never coming back.

"An enormous amount of time and effort is invested to put in place labour scheduling systems to ensure staff are available to call to open tills," she says.

"The problem arises when all the tills are open and the place is still heaving."

Terry Green, whose voice you hear calling you to a cashier in the Post Office, said dealing with queues sensibly was crucial to any shop.

"Retailers need to understand that this is the last opportunity they have to influence how we feel about the visit in their store," he pointed out.