Consumer queuing time doubles in four years across Europe, research reveals


Consumers queue on average nine minutes in retail outlets, twice the time taken four years ago, new research by members of MSPA Europe (The Mystery Shopping Providers Association’s European chapter) reveals.

Its pan-European study found current queuing times are one minute less than a year ago, when the survey was last conducted; but the increase since 2008 indicates that retail changes during the recession may be having an impact on customer experiences.  

The longest queues were experienced in post offices, banks and train stations, where average queuing times were in excess of 12 minutes.

Mystery shoppers from 23 countries joined queues in a range of retail outlets including banks, post offices, grocery stores, travel ticket offices and fast food outlets. They reported on the time taken to reach the front of the queue and on the response of the member of staff to the queuing customer. Over 2,700 surveys were submitted, making this the largest survey of its kind, said MSPA Europe.

Customers appear resigned to staying in the queue, but one in three shows some level of dissatisfaction about the experience, the mystery shoppers found. When it came to the customer service received at the front of the queue, only half the serving staff could manage a smile.

UK retailers are reported to have performed well compared with their counterparts across the rest of Europe. On average a UK customer queues for three minutes to be served. 

Front line employees in the UK  are way ahead of the rest when it comes to acknowledging the wait, with almost 50% making an apology, compared with just over 30% in Portugal and less than 5% in Sweden.

Mystery shopping specialist, Grass Roots, contributed to the fieldwork that took place in the UK. 

The firm’s executive board director and president of the MSPA Europe, Nigel Cover, said: “Mystery shopping is the only way in which organisations can measure exactly how well, or badly, their customers are treated. Our survey indicates, in these difficult times for retailers, lowering standards may be having a detrimental effect on customer service, loyalty and advocacy.”