Effective Lobby Management System Strategies
Lobby management has always been a big concern for many businesses—from banks and credit unions to healthcare providers and customer-facing government facilities. But when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, keeping lobbies efficient and uncrowded took on greater urgency.
Nobody wants to wait in a jam-packed lobby, but some services require in-person interaction that a drive-through window or an online option simply can’t provide. However, customers might see the crowd and decide that waiting isn’t worth their time, patience, or even health.
A digital lobby management system can help. It enhances the customer experience by providing a safer, less chaotic environment in which to wait and receive service. Good lobby management also leads to strategies that boost your business’s operations.
Why Lobby Management Matters
For many businesses, a lobby isn’t just a place to wait—it’s the welcoming space that acts as the first connection between customers and the service they’re seeking. When that space is crowded and the people waiting aren’t in a good mood, it doesn’t feel so welcoming for customers.
Good lobby management depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The size and layout of the lobby
- The number of employees serving customers
- The speed at which employees effectively serve customers
- The types of services people entering the lobby need
All these factors also affect your operation’s productivity and, just as importantly, the customer experience. Every customer who enters your lobby might be there for unique reasons, and the more you can cater to those reasons, the better the customer experience will be.
For example, not everybody who steps into a bank needs a teller. Some people may want to open an account, others to get prequalified for a loan, others to access a safety deposit box, and so on. Without good lobby management, customers might needlessly wait, becoming more and more frustrated as their reasons for being there go unaddressed.
Your queuing and scheduling strategies must go beyond the physical characteristics of the lobby where customers wait. Effective lobby management systems should also consider how customers are served.
How a Lobby Management System Can Help
A digital lobby management system delivers a streamlined queuing and waiting process that benefits customers, employees, and management, as well as productivity, operational strategy, and the bottom line.
The basics of the technology are straightforward. Customers enter the lobby and check into the system, then receive updates on their smartphones about estimated wait times and when their turn comes up. As part of the process—either during check-in or while they wait—customers can tell the business what kind of service they need.
Furthermore, customers don’t have to wait in the lobby for their turn. They are free to go for a walk, run an errand, get a quick cup of coffee, or anything else they can fit into the estimated wait time.
Digital appointment scheduling can be incorporated into a lobby management system so that customers can set their own times for service without even setting foot in the lobby until their appointment comes up. This can be combined with walk-in service to optimize the number of customers you can handle without feeling overwhelmed or understaffed.
Many businesses can benefit from a lobby management system—even if they don’t have a true lobby. Consider these use cases:
Banks and Credit Unions
As already mentioned, people come to banks for many reasons outside of seeing a teller. Virtual queuing through a lobby management system allows them to specify what service they need without having to wait in a physical queue to speak to a teller and be redirected. The system can also direct them to a line if they do need a teller.
When virtual queuing is paired with appointment scheduling, bank customers can make their own appointments with loan officers, service reps, and other specialists while saving your employees time that might have otherwise been spent talking on the phone or answering emails.
Urgent Care Facilities
Healthcare lobbies are notorious for crowds of people and long, unpredictable waits. There isn’t much that patients at an emergency room can do but wait, but at an urgent care center, people are faced with a tougher choice: Wait and hope they’re seen sooner instead of later, or figure that cough isn’t so bad and just go home.
A lobby management system at an urgent care facility gives patients information to make decisions on if they should wait and where they can wait from. If you’re sick or injured enough to require immediate (though not emergency) care, you should receive it. Virtual queuing takes some of the guesswork—and stress—out of the process.
Veterinary offices face a double whammy: pets coming in for checkups and other prescheduled appointments and pets requiring emergency care. The results often are jammed lobbies, people waiting in their cars with their pets (and unable to leave for fear of losing their place in line), and long, long waits. The surge in pet ownership since the pandemic started—combined with a shortage of employees—has made this chaos worse, especially at animal hospitals that only serve walk-ins.
A lobby management system may not always decrease veterinary wait times during busy periods, but it can decrease the stress owners and their pets feel. If someone knows that it will take an hour for their dog to be seen—and will get updates if that time changes or their turn is nearing—they can take Spot for a walk or just go home and come back later. Also, employees can spend less time managing the crush and more time facilitating care.
Most auto repair shops work on appointments and don’t get much walk-in business. But other auto-related businesses, such as tire shops, car washes, and oil-change services, tend to get more customers in the spur of the moment. Lobby management gets these customers into the system and gives them estimated wait times so they aren’t immediately scared off by a crowd. Furthermore, if they choose not to wait after entering the system, they can reschedule for another time through their phones.
Perhaps no customer-facing organization has gotten a worse rap for customer service and long waits than the DMV. But DMVs also haven’t been afraid to adopt lobby management systems to streamline the waiting experience, direct drivers to the right people for service (e.g., license renewals, driver’s tests, vehicle registration), and reduce congestion. The latest virtual queuing technology takes this progress further by offering estimated wait times, allowing for communication between employees and customers, and letting people schedule something such as a CDL exam ahead of time.
Essential Features of a Lobby Management System
To get the most from your lobby management system strategies, the platform you choose must come with features that benefit both your organization and the customers you serve. Some of these essential elements include:
- Digital check-in: Customers scan a QR code, enter information into a kiosk touchscreen, or send a text to enter the queuing system and reserve a place in line. This process can also be used to identify which service they need—for example, if someone at a bank wants to speak with a loan officer, they can tap a button on the touchscreen or scan a specific QR code.
- Appointment scheduling: In addition to giving customers control over scheduling their own appointments, this feature empowers them to make repeat appointments from within the system. A pet owner can immediately schedule a time in the future to have their dog’s stitches removed; a borrower can reserve a space to finish the loan process by checking the loan officer’s availability.
- Robust configuration options: Not every business will have the same lobby management needs, from the customer experience you want to offer to the access you want your employees to have. The best platforms are easily configurable so you can create an experience tailored to your needs and your customers’ needs.
- Ease of use: Obviously, the system you use should be intuitive and simple to use for customers—otherwise, they’ll wonder what was wrong with the old way you did things (even if the old way was inefficient). Your platform should also be easy for employees to implement, learn, and use every day. Something too complex for the end user becomes a pain and can erode the employee experience, which, with the current labor challenges, is a factor you can’t ignore.
- Analytics: The data created by a lobby management system offers insight into not only wait times and customer behavior but also operational strategy in real time and the long term. It helps inform staffing, hours of operation, employee training, and more. Quality solutions put these analytics at your fingertips.
At Qtrac, we also look at the data. Learn more of what we discovered in our Qtrac 2021 State of the Market Report.