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A new Maritz poll suggests that 50 percent of customers have left convenience stores and 46 percent have left drug stores due to long wait times and 32 percent of customers across all categories will share their experiences with others.

However, c-stores and drug stores hardly are the worst offenders when it comes to long lines – 72 percent of customers have left department stores because of long lines, 65 percent have left specialty stores for the same reason, and 53 percent have walked out of mail/shipping service stores.

Supermarkets were not rated in the Maritz poll.

Attitudes vary widely across categories when it comes to frustration with wait times, according to the poll. Respondents indicated that they expect to wait an average of 8.6 minutes at a drugstore, significantly more time than other categories – mostly because often they are waiting for prescriptions. Mail/shipping service stores averaged 7.5 minutes, while department stores averaged 6.2 minutes, specialty clothing stores averaged 5.7 minutes and convenience stores averaged 3.3 minutes.

KC's View:
The interesting thing about this poll isn’t the fact that people hate to wait. (I can certainly relate to this. I’m one of those guys who will spend 15 minutes driving on back roads to avoid a five minute wait on the main road, mostly because I prefer any kind of momentum. Though I may have to re-examine this practice in view of the carbon footprint issue…)

No, the interesting thing about the poll is the idea that many of the respondents say that if employees would just be nicer about the experience and make it a little bit more palatable, they’d be willing to cut the store a little slack.

This, essentially, is what Michael Sansolo wrote about yesterday in Sansolo Speaks - the importance of the front line employee in any sort of customer experience.

While supermarkets are not included in the poll, they need to take the results seriously. People are always the biggest differential advantage. In these times of economic decline, there will of course be moves to cut costs, cut prices and focus on value. But the simplest things – a smile, a pleasant exchange – can be the biggest game changer.