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Managing perceptions of waiting times in service queues

Peter Jones (University of Brighton, Eastbourne, UK)
Emma Peppiatt (University of Brighton, Eastbourne, UK)

International Journal of Service Industry Management

ISSN: 0956-4233

Article publication date: 1 December 1996



Investigates the extent to which there is a gap between customers’ perception of waiting time compared with the actual waiting time and, whether this gap could be reduced. Maister originally identified eight propositions based around the idea that the perception of waiting lines are modified by a range of factors. Although other studies have discussed Maister’s propositions by identifying the level of management control and customers’ perceptions of waiting lines, rarely has the basic idea ‐ that perceived and actual wait times may be different ‐ been empirically tested. Reviews those studies which have compared actual waiting time with perceived waiting time, before going on to report on the first known UK study. The research involved an experimental study into two of Maister’s propositions involving 300 members of the general public. Tests a control group of 100 people queueing in a small retail food outlet to identify whether there is a significant difference between perceived and actual waiting times. Repeats the measurement on two further random samples of 100 people. Then discusses the implications of this study, and the earlier studies, with respect to a revision of Maister’s original eight propositions. Concludes with a review of how queue management may be carried out more effectively in relation to matching more closely actual and perceived waiting times.



Jones, P. and Peppiatt, E. (1996), "Managing perceptions of waiting times in service queues", International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 7 No. 5, pp. 47-61.




Copyright © 1996, MCB UP Limited

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