Did you know the average American spends up to 2 years waiting in line, and that waiting time can cause elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and even rage?

While that may not seem like welcome news for financial institutions, understanding the science behind waiting in line can go a long way toward helping you control how the wait in your branch is perceived and how adjusting it can improve the client experience.

Fortunately, some really smart people have been studying the psychology of waiting in lines for decades, including Richard Larson, a professor who studies “queuing theory” (yep, that’s a thing) at MIT, and past Harvard Professor, David Meister, who’s work on waiting has been studied and published throughout the world. Their work teaches us that not all lines are the same and knowing which types of waiting to reduce or eliminate in your branch can make a HUGE difference in the client experience.

Too busy to read now? Save and read later or share it here:

Download “The Science Behind Waiting in Line”

The good news is, you don’t have to have a Ph.D. to benefit from their research—we’ve studied the studies and put together some key points that will help you understand how your lines are affecting your clients, and we’ll share some tips that will help relieve the stress your clients feel when they step into your branch.

Not all wait times are the same

 We’ve all experienced a five-minute wait that seemed like an hour, and one that felt like less than a minute. So, why did our perception of time vary so greatly?

The type of wait we experienced.

Here’s a rundown of a few of the most common types of waits your clients are likely to experience in your branch and what you can do to ease their pain:

Solo waits feel longer than group waits

We’re not suggesting that your branches’ sense of community should come from the comradery your clients develop while waiting in line, but science tells us that people that are left to their own devices feel like they’ve been waiting longer than those who have company.

Tip: Clients want to get started with their transactions as quickly as possible, and adding Universal Associates to your branch can help you get started with your client’s needs immediately. Even if the client eventually has to wait, the science shows they walk away feeling more positive about the experience.

Occupied waiting time feels shorter than non-occupied time

Are you giving your clients something constructive to do while waiting for a platform teller? If not, your client perceives their wait as longer than it really is.

Tip: The addition of interactive digital signage can keep clients occupied while they wait, and fun quizzes and information about your products can be served in a way that makes the client feel more relaxed and receptive.

Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits

Your clients want their wait to be fair, with no jumps or cuts in line. When a platform teller moves to the front of the line or steps behind the counter to ask a teller to pause a transaction, the clients waiting in line feel an injustice has been done. Even the most patient client can become upset, and those clients waiting in the teller line will walk away feeling negative about their experience in your branch.

Tip: Adding RTA by CFM provides an easy way to remotely queue and process transactions from anywhere in the branch, eliminating the need for teller interruption or cutting in line. It also creates a path to Universal Associates and open branch designs, which both greatly assist in reducing and even eliminating waiting in line.

Shortening wait times through Cash Automation

While you can’t completely eliminate the lines in your branch, understanding the psychology of waiting and taking steps to remove the barriers in your branch can go a long way to helping you choose the right technology that will improve your client experience. Now that you’ve learned a little about how waiting in a line creates barriers to a positive client experience, you’ve got a head start on removing those barriers.


CFM drives the future of banking by connecting cash automation hardware to the core, enabling Universal Associates, open branch designs, and self-service solutions. Get in touch with us now to find out how we can help you reduce wait times and create a more positive client experience.