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Updated May 03, 2024

Simple Ways to Improve Your Customers’ Waiting Experience

Long wait times can frustrate customers, but there are ways to vastly improve this experience.

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Jamie Johnson, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you already know that long wait times frustrate most customers. Doctors’ offices, marketing agencies, salons, automotive garages, restaurants, law firms and many other businesses must manage how much time their clients spend in reception areas. 

In some cases, asking your customers to wait is unavoidable. But as a business owner, you have the power to make this part of the customer journey stress-free and even enjoyable. 

How to improve customers’ in-person waiting experience

Here are four tips for upgrading your reception area and making waiting a more positive experience for your customers.

Provide entertainment to engage waiting customers.

Distraction is an excellent way to keep your clients from fretting about wait times. Outfit your waiting area with amenities to keep them engaged so they’re not watching the clock. Here are some tips: 

  • Mix up your entertainment offerings. You don’t want to force specific TV programming on every customer. Not all of them want to watch the news or sports. You can easily solve this problem by varying your offerings. For example, invest in multiple monitors or use a system like Samsung’s Smart Signage TV, which allows you to create diverse, custom entertainment lineups.
  • Provide Wi-Fi. Most people in your reception area will have a mobile device, and some may want to use a laptop. Make it easy for them to get online by setting up a business-grade Wi-Fi network. If you already offer cable TV, it’s relatively easy to add internet to your existing package. Don’t forget to post the guest network name and password prominently so customers don’t have to hunt for it.
  • Diversify print subscriptions. All businesses have varying types of clients with different preferences. Make each demographic feel welcome by providing a robust selection of magazines. Include beauty, fashion, sports, news, automotive, travel, cooking and home design options. If people bring children with them, include reading material for youngsters.
Did You Know?Did you know
Customer delight is the new standard in customer service. Customer delight principles include exceeding expectations, building a knowledgeable support team and providing unexpected benefits.

Offer personal services to make waiting more comfortable.

Just because a customer is in a waiting area doesn’t mean they have to feel lost in the shuffle. Amenities that cater to customer comfort go a long way toward letting your clients know how valued they are. Here are some tips for making waiting more comfortable: 

  • Put out a spread. Waiting times feel much less oppressive with a hot coffee or a healthy snack. A spread doesn’t have to be over the top to make a good impression. A selection of coffee, tea, fruit drinks and water accompanied by fresh fruit, granola bars or prepackaged nuts is enough to help ease the pain of waiting.
  • Offer charging stations. Show your customers you care by providing charging stations for mobile devices and laptops. If they can use their waiting time to catch up on work emails or plan their home remodel on Pinterest, they might view their long wait as valuable personal time instead of an inconvenience.
  • Provide stress relief. Waiting increases stress levels, especially if the service provided could significantly affect customers’ health or finances. Transform your waiting area into a relaxing experience by providing calming aromatherapy or massage chairs. A mere 10 minutes in a massage chair might melt away the waiting-room angst.

Communicate with waiting customers to minimize frustration.

Letting customers know how long they can expect to wait can minimize frustration. Stepping up your communication with customers significantly improves waiting-room attitudes.

Here are a few ways to accomplish this:

  • Use technology. Sometimes, unforeseen events affect wait times. Leading with transparency in your communication can ease frustration and build customer trust. Consider using text messages to update customers about wait times and to set realistic expectations. From emergency rooms to restaurants, businesses are embracing the use of text messaging for customer service to improve communication and trust.
  • Give advance notice. Perception is a key factor in wait-time dissatisfaction. Instead of waiting until a client arrives in your office, let them know their expected wait time when you confirm their appointment. If you can manage the logistics, send people a wait-time update via SMS messaging on their appointment day. This can go a long way toward alleviating wait-time frustration.
  • Be willing to apologize. Most customers will overlook a long wait time if you apologize for the inconvenience. Saying “I’m sorry” might be all you need to do to show your customers how much you care.

Create a pleasant atmosphere for waiting customers.

Your waiting-room ambiance matters. A welcoming reception area can do wonders for your customers’ moods. Consider the following tips:

  • Don’t skimp on comfort. Waiting is bad enough, but waiting on an uncomfortable chair or sofa is even worse. Test out your waiting area furniture. If you can’t sit on it comfortably for at least 30 minutes, keep shopping.
  • Upgrade as needed. Don’t let your waiting-room furniture live past its expiration date. As soon as things start to look shabby, stained or worn out, start shopping for replacements.
  • Make it swanky. You don’t need to spend a fortune on an elite interior decorator, but using the right colors, lighting and artwork will put your customers at ease. Instead of industrial features, like fluorescent bulbs and lifeless gray tones, opt for soothing and thoughtfully selected decor. Bringing plants or greenery into your room can add to the peaceful environment.

What not to do when customers are waiting

When it comes to excellent customer service, it’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to focus on what to do. Don’t make these customer service mistakes: 

  • Acting annoyed or defensive: If a customer asks you how much longer they’ll have to wait, the worst thing you can do is act annoyed or defensive. Resist the urge to rationalize long wait times. Instead, apologize for the wait and tell them you’ll get to them as soon as possible.
  • Ignoring your customers: Don’t ignore your customers or avoid their impatient gazes. Be aware of how long they’ve been waiting, and occasionally provide updates on how much longer they can expect to wait.
  • Not allowing customers to leave: If customers must wait more than 30 minutes, give them the option to leave and return. This is where technology can be helpful. For example, tell your customers they’re free to leave and run errands, and you’ll text them when they need to return. 

How virtual waiting rooms impact customers

Many service-based businesses ceased or reduced in-person operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, virtual waiting rooms have had a positive impact on customers, and many businesses continue to use them as more services accommodate remote models.

With a virtual waiting room, customers can often see how many people are ahead of them in line, which can reduce their stress levels. Virtual waiting rooms make it easier to provide estimated wait times for customers.

Virtual waiting rooms also provide valuable data for businesses. For example, if you notice that customer demand is higher on specific days, you can adjust your staffing levels accordingly. 

Why customers’ waiting experience matters

According to Zendesk’s customer experience trends report, customers equate long wait times with poor customer service, and over half of respondents said they felt “stressed and exhausted” while interacting with customer support. What’s worse, 75 percent of respondents said a bad customer support interaction “ruined their day.” 

Your customers may have to wait to interact with your business at times, but it shouldn’t be a terrible experience or the worst part of their day. Here are a few reasons why providing a good customer waiting experience matters for your bottom line:

  • A good waiting experience improves your reputation. If customers spend an inordinate amount of time waiting, their perception of your service will plummet. In comparison, companies that provide a fast and efficient waiting experience improve the perceived value of their service. This leads to an improved reputation that fosters repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • A good waiting experience prompts positive reviews. Customers don’t forget about bad experiences once they leave your business. Some will leave a negative online review, scaring away potential customers. However, a good experience can prompt positive reviews that serve as excellent free marketing and social proof.
  • A good waiting experience encourages more sales. People who have had a negative experience with your business aren’t likely to return or refer you to others. However, a good waiting experience leaves customers with positive feelings about your company. They’ll be more likely to make repeat purchases or visits and refer you to others.
  • A good waiting experience sets you apart from the competition. Providing a positive waiting experience is an excellent way to differentiate your business from its competitors. It’s particularly helpful if you work in an industry where waiting is expected, like restaurants or healthcare.  
TipBottom line
The best customer relationship management (CRM) software can help you organize your customer-related information, thus allowing support reps to provide personalized service and resolve issues faster.

Waiting doesn’t have to be a chore

Waiting may be a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be a chore for your customers. Incorporate some of these ideas to help enhance your waiting-room experience, and you’ll turn frustrated consumers into loyal customers who are happy to refer your business to others.

author image
Jamie Johnson, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Jamie Johnson has spent more than five years providing invaluable financial guidance to business owners, leading them through the financial intricacies of entrepreneurship. From offering investment lessons to recommending funding options, business loans and insurance, Johnson distills complex financial matters into easily understandable and actionable advice, empowering entrepreneurs to make informed decisions for their companies. As a business owner herself, she continually tests and refines her business strategies and services. Johnson's expertise is evident in her contributions to various finance publications, including Rocket Mortgage, InvestorPlace, Insurify and Credit Karma. Moreover, she has showcased her command of other B2B topics, ranging from sales and payroll to marketing and social media, with insights featured in esteemed outlets such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, CNN, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report and Business Insider.
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