Breathing down your neck : the impact of queues on customers using a service

Dahm, Martin; Wentzel, Daniel (Thesis advisor); Salge, Torsten Oliver (Thesis advisor)

Aachen / Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2015) [Dissertation / PhD Thesis]

Page(s): XXIII, 127 S. : Ill., graph. Darst.


A rich body of queuing research has focused on how consumers are affected by waiting lines, as well as on the development and optimization of efficient strategies to enhance consumers’ feelings while standing in line. In times when many service industries are affected by waiting lines, such insights hold major importance. While much of this research has focused on queues from a waiting perspective, it has more or less neglected to investigate what may happen once a consumer reaches the head of the queue and starts using the service. Thus, the question arises of whether (and how) consumers feel influenced by other people waiting behind them once it is their turn, and if so, what effect queue length has on their service experience. In this regard, much research has referred to the universal concept of crowding to explain the impact of the presence of other customers in a store on an individual. However, the question remains whether more situation-specific factors/feelings exist that take account of the peculiarity in the current queuing context, namely that the progress of the customers waiting in line is solely dependent on the transaction velocity of the customer who is currently using the service. Having raised these issues, this dissertation investigates the impact of queues on consumers who are currently using a service, as well as two means to control for it. For this purpose, a conceptual framework primarily based on social impact theory, social norms, and social pressure is developed and examined through a series of four studies. In particular, this framework postulates that the service experience/evaluation of a customer currently using a service will decrease as the waiting line at his/her back increases and that this effect is mediated by perceptions of social pressure to finish the transaction quickly. Furthermore, providing a social cue making the consumer feel that it is appropriate to use the service as intensely as desired, as well as organizing people waiting at the current consumer’s back in a take-a-number wait system rather than a traditional waiting line will bolster – at least under specific circumstances – the current consumer’s service experience against the adverse effect of queue length. By demonstrating that queue length has adverse effects even on consumers at the head of the queue and, by suggesting possibilities to bolster consumers against this effect, these findings make important contributions to theory and practice.


  • URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:82-rwth-2015-039182
  • REPORT NUMBER: RWTH-2015-03918