Dick’s Drive-In is a popular fast food hamburger chain in the Greater Seattle Area.  They are a “drive-in” in that you arrive to almost all of their locations via car, then get out and order your food.  They do have one non-drive-in location in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, which follows the same ordering system, but with a convenient indoor place to eat after ordering.

The one thing all of these location have in common is their queue policy.  At this restaurant, you see an open register, you stand at the register and a line forms behind you.  So, they have 4 registers, they have 4 lines.

This used to be a very common setup, but we have learned a lot about the psychology of queues in the last few decades.  To quote an authority on lines, Richard Larson

Often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself.

Richard Larson

So you want to construct lines as experiences that reduce the perception that you are on a line.  You can do that by giving people something to keep them busy and making sure they feel that line appears “fair.” 

I am not sure why Dick’s Drive-In resists setting up stanchions to form one large line and then fairly serve everyone in the order of arrival.  This is a choice they have made and it is a strike against them.  But they should reconsider.

The other line always moves faster.

Erma Bombeck’s Law

They, and anyone working with customers ,need to think about this when they approach any customer related activity.  We see it in online support, you have one button to join a queue, not eight buttons of varying wait times.  You can also apply this logic to project work. 

Early on in my career, I learned to never mention to clients that X couldn’t happen because I was busy with Y.  It makes a customer feel like they are competing.  If they are competing, and they are losing, they will have negative feelings.  Those negative feelings will be yours to own.

It doesn’t take much for a person to get a negative impression of your company or brand.  Simple tested strategies can help you improve the customer experience and your business.  So adopt them, because sometimes you don’t need a crazy third option to do something well.