I really enjoyed this article on lines. Specifically, on how different organizations deal with having to make people wait. Take one of Disney's approaches:
People waiting in line for a comedy show at Walt Disney World are asked to text message jokes that may be used during the main event.
"It works as our warm-up act essentially for the show, but it also takes time while people are working through that and so it keeps them entertained while they're waiting," Garlington said.
Simple and brilliant. You not only get people through the boring process of standing in line, but even use that time for something positive.
The article also contains general tips on making lines more palatable - such as providing more rather than less information, and focusing on making sure the line is absolutely fair.
But, the real take away I had from the article was that someone like Disney could simply write off standing in line as a fact of life, but they didn't. Instead they took on the challenge of figuring out what they could do to make the experience of standing in line a neutral, if not positive, one.
This reminds me of a story by Seth Godin. He explains that he visited a new restaurant and was given the worst table in the place. When he asked to move, he was told that the table that he was interested in was reserved - which he interpreted as "oh, we have a regular customer who deserves that table more than you." Here's his recommendation to the restaurant:
Sorry, but the answer is this: you can't have a bad table.
No one wants to settle for the bad table, your worst salesperson, your second-rate items. Not the new customers and not the loyal ones...
Which means you need to figure out how to improve your lesser offerings. Maybe the table in the worst location comes with a special menu or a special wine list or even a visit from the chef. Maybe the worst table, for some people, becomes the best table because of the way you treat people when they sit there...
Whether it's standing in line, or a bad table - there are two ways to approach this problem: assume that it's a fact of life, or be innovative and find a way to improve status quo. Seems to me, the businesses who innovate will win every time.