THE BLOG
02/02/2011 01:56 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Making Your Customers Wait Can Be An Advantage

The press recently reported that many Chicago area emergency rooms were posting the waiting times for non-threatening treatment on their websites. The average visitor waits more than four hours in the emergency room.

Some business experts believe that it's good to make customers wait (unless you're bleeding!). A line means that your service is in high demand. For example, restaurants or clubs get a reputation for being exclusive with their long lines and velvet ropes. We feel special when we actually get in!

Waiting for customers may be a necessity based on the demand of your service, but here are three ways to turn it into an advantage.

1. Set customers' expectations. If you think the wait will be 30 minutes, then say so, or give a range of times. Estimate on the high side. This is one area where I break the rule of "under promise and over deliver". Customers just want to know, so they can make a decision on what to do. Disney has signs that say the wait is so many minutes from this point on. Better yet, post it on your website or Facebook page.

2. Entertain or feed them. If customers have to wait in line and can't go elsewhere, serve snacks and alcohol (if appropriate). Make waiting in line part of the customer experience!

3. Reward the customer for waiting. If the wait time was different than expected or particularly long, offer a bonus when they finally are served. They will never forget it!

What's next ? The Department of Motor Vehicle posting waiting times on their site before we drive out there?