My local Citibank has 12 teller windows. I have never been there when more than 3 had tellers behind them. I have never been there when there was not a long line.

There is a large chain of “super” Drug Stores here in New York called Duane Reade. They all have approx. 8-10 cash registers and I have never been there when more than 2 had staff behind them (Most of the time it is only 1). This is so universally true at every Duane Reade that I now refer to every other company that creates this illogical and customer maddening experience as the “Duane Reade of _____”

In both cases, managers are around that observe these long lines and never rally other staff to clear it or jump behind the register/window themselves.

Now, I am not the most patient person in the world but I do not think that anyone enjoys waiting in a line up to 10-20 minutes. Is that just the way it has to be to keep expenses down?

There is some hope: my local Whole Foods Market has over 35 cash registers (all staffed) and a person at the head of the line that continually directs people to the next open register. The line is often over 50 people long and I have never waited more than 5 minutes. More importantly, the presence of a crowd or long line does not prevent me for shopping there.

There is a hotel in Germany that picks you up from the airport, lets you order dinner from the car so it is waiting for you and they check you into the hotel when you get to your room.

How much effort does it really take to focus on that most important moment when your customers are about to pay you? Why would anything else come first? Your customers are experiencing your company from the moment they enter your office and ring your telephone number. Maximizing their experiences after that moment is up to you. Ignore them until later and they may have already left or hung up.

Are there any times when your customers are “waiting in line” to use your product or service? If there is, the most important big idea/innovation for you to execute this year would be to fix it.