Members of MSPA Europe (The Mystery Shopping Providers Association's European chapter) have conducted a major, pan-European, survey of queues. This is the fourth in a series of such surveys conducted by MSPA members, with the results building into a valuable picture of the way customers experience shopping.

Mystery Shoppers from 23 countries joined queues in a range of retail types including banks, 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. Nearly 3000 completed queue reports were submitted, making this the largest survey of its kind.

Comparisons with previous surveys show that, on average, it takes almost 9 minutes to reach the front of the queue, 1 minute less then 2 years ago and still about twice the time taken in 2008, indicating that retail changes during the recession may be having a real impact on customer experiences.

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

The mystery shoppers could see ways in which the queue could be shortened, by opening more available tills, or bringing extra staff to assist, but noted that this very rarely happened.

Amongst other fascinating findings, the research shows:

Which country has the longest, and slowest queues, on average? : Russia

Which retailer has the longest queues? : Post Offices

Commenting on the survey results, Nigel Cover (MSPA President) said: "Mystery Shopping is the only way in which organisations can measure exactly how well, or badly, their customers are treated. Our survey indicates that, in these difficult times for retailers, lowering standards may be having a detrimental effect on customer service".

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