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Breaking Down the Different Types of Queue Systems

by Qtrac

Waiting in a line, or a queue, is rarely something we look forward to. Queuing theory—the study of how queues work—uses data and human behavior to measure if the queue is effective and efficient. Based on the results, you can make adjustments to improve the customer experience and potentially boost sales as well.

Buyers who have consistently great interactions with you, including how they wait, are much more likely to continue doing business with you. Choosing the right queue for your business is important for your bottom line, and the best solution is most likely a combination of physical and digital queues.

Types of Queue Systems

How customers feel about waiting for service can make or break their opinion of your business. Models we’re all familiar with are first-come-first-served and take-a-number standards. The introduction of virtual queuing and online appointment scheduling is revolutionizing the customer waiting experience.

Standard “Waiting in Line” Model

When customers wait in line without any kind of predetermined order, they are served in order of arrival. First come, first served has long been a standard for retail outlets, banks, government agencies, and airports, which feels fair.

The wait experience with this model is less-than-ideal, however, because customers have no idea how long they’ll wait. They’re also stuck in the line and can’t leave without risking losing their place in the queue. And, once someone reaches the front of the line, the person waiting on them has no idea what they need, which can increase the time it takes to complete the transaction.

A first-come-first-served approach doesn’t do your employees any favors, either. A crowded lobby or an endless line of people takes focus away from the person standing in front of them. Because they don’t know what a customer needs until they’re waiting on that person, staff can’t work efficiently, creating potential bottlenecks and longer service times.

Take-a-Number Model

When customers take a number, they are still served in order of arrival but in a more orderly fashion. Depending on the system utilized, this feels fair, but customers still risk losing their place if they miss their number being called.

Customers have some idea of how long their wait will be based on the number being served upon their arrival. But because each person has a different need that requires varying levels of attention from workers, they can’t know for sure.

Staffers are in the same boat. They don’t know what customers need before they’re waiting on someone, which can decrease productivity. Customers who have a poor wait experience tend to take longer once they reach the service counter because they are irritated.

Virtual Queuing

Digital queuing creates a system in which customers are served in the order that works best for them and your staff.

Customers check in remotely and receive an estimated service time, allowing them more control over their time. Real-time updates come through SMS messaging or email, creating the perception of a shorter wait time. Another benefit is if their place in line advances too quickly, customers can bump themselves back to a time that works better for them.

Virtual queuing frees customers buyers from having to wait at your physical location, too. Once they have an idea of how long they’ll wait, they can wait anywhere: at home, running other errands, or enjoying a lunch out.

For retail outlets, shoppers can browse your store while they wait without worrying about losing their place in line or missing their turn if they don’t hear their number called. This is a great way to increase revenue by positioning higher-ticket-price products for impulse purchases in strategic areas beyond typical point-of-sale items.

Based on how customers interact with the software, you have additional opportunities to increase engagement while they wait. You can deliver promos and offers for the products and services customers already use, need, and want.

When customers check in remotely, they remain in the system. You can continue delivering value after their transaction with customized offers and content that speaks to their interests, answers questions they might have, and more.

For your workers, they’ll feel more efficient even on the busiest days because the software informs them about what customers need. Employees can greet customers by name for more personalized service and move them through their transaction more quickly.

Operationally, queuing software serves historical and real-time data so you can consistently improve the customer experience by better forecasting staffing needs and reacting to customer traffic on the fly by moving employees to areas that need more attention. Both help you consistently deliver on your brand promise by showing customers you value their time and appreciate their decision to do business with you.

Appointment Scheduling

Having the option to schedule service deepens the impression that you don’t take customers’ time and money for granted. Making a calendar of open times available allows customers to book according to their schedule without having to call and possibly wait on hold for a representative.

They still receive SMS messages or emails with updates, such as reminders and opportunities to take advantage of canceled appointments. On the day of their service, customers will know if they can expect service on time or if they’ll experience a wait once they arrive.

Queue management and appointment scheduling software also helps manage walk-ins more effectively. Anyone who needs assistance can use an on-site kiosk to check in and join the virtual queue. This way, they are directed to the appropriate area where workers can best address their needs, or you can direct them to another location with a shorter wait time.

Not All Virtual Queuing Software Is Created Equal

Though virtual queuing is the best choice for nearly all businesses, virtual queuing software is not one-size-fits-all. The virtual queue solution you choose should include particular features to make operations run more efficiently.

Management Dashboard

The information you need to run your business should be available at your fingertips. This way, you can manage staffing needs, stagger break times, and even interact with customers from across the sales floor or across the country.

With a centralized management hub with live updates available from any device, there isn’t a lag between customer traffic increasing and having employees in place to meet the demand.

Intuitive Customization

Any virtual queue solution you explore should adapt to fit your business and your customer journey instead of the other way around. As your needs change—say you add a location or enhance your core offer—the software should accommodate those adjustments without difficulty.

API Integration

No one system can handle every administrative function of your business. When you incorporate a virtual queue solution, it should integrate seamlessly with the platforms and systems you already use.

Reporting Tools

In addition to helping you understand customer traffic better, digital queuing software delivers news you can use with data to help evaluate performance for individual employees, teams, and departments. You can analyze and compare how many customers are served and by whom and how long transactions take to complete.

This way, you can identify who your consistently high performers are and recognize them appropriately. You can also target employees who need additional training to get them up to speed so every member of your staff delivers the high-quality experience your customers expect.

Are You Ready to Explore Virtual Queue Management Systems?

Make sure you pick the right one for your business with our e-book How to Avoid the Hidden Costs of Purchasing a Queue Management System.

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