Customers find it annoying when they have to wait for something, but just explaining the situation, keeping them informed and being available can work wonders Waiting has always been an ingredient of the service experience. But in the UK we all seem to be in a hurry. We have raised our expectations on service and that is the only real differentiator between one provider and another. But as any retailer or restaurant will tell you, the staff doing the serving are expensive to recruit and train and difficult to keep. Unoccupied time feels longer; anxiety makes waiting seem longer; and waiting on your own feels longer than in groups. The time goes quickly when your favourite football team is winning and passes by very slowly when you're losing. In other words, pleasure moves too quickly and trouble moves too slow. So what can you do to help the wait and does it matter? Well, it's difficult to measure the real effect of your customers having to wait because we simply vote with our feet rather than make a complaint. Road rage yes, and the odd bout of trolley rage, but it's more normal to look for somewhere that treats you like you are important. Management consultant David H. Maister is usually acknowledged as the guy who distilled down the four popular ways of helping the waiting process: animate, discriminate, automate and obfuscate. So what can you do? Well, the most important thing is don't do nothing . Explain why there is a wait and say what you are doing about it (without, importantly, attaching blame to yourself or others as it leaves a bad impression). Secondly, keep people posted. If they know there is a specific delay they can either decide to do something else or use that time - often to keep other people posted. Thirdly, be available. Frustrations that are not allowed to be expressed will not be suppressed or go away - they will just get stronger. If people turn frustration into anger and then fury they are not responsible for their own actions. And plan to do one (or more) of Maister's ways. Animate by showing a video, or listening to music. Discriminate - people in Business Class don't wait as long because they pay more. Automate - press one for this or two for that ...need I continue? Or obfuscate by fudging and moving people around. Ultimately people want to be recognised and feel the company cares. There is no doubt that the best but also the most expensive way to avoiding waiting is to use more people and train them well. If you want to know how it's done well, fly Business Class with Singapore Airlines. But, ironically, don't try and call them afterwards. No-one is perfect are they?n Philip Hesketh is a professional speaker on 'The Psychology of Persuasion' and the author of Life's A Game So Fix The Odds.