How to Choose the Right Digital Check In System
A customer enters a business or nears a service counter and instantly—and sometimes unconsciously—assesses the situation. Is there a crowd? Are enough employees available to serve customers? Will this be a good experience for me?
If there is a crowd, the customer’s next thought might be, “How do I check in?” This is the organization’s opportunity to make a great and memorable first impression. If check-in is smooth, clear, and customer-centric, people might not mind the wait. If it’s chaotic, unclear, and stressful, the negative impression customers may get could carry over long after the interaction ends.
A digital check-in system that incorporates virtual queuing puts customers in control of their waiting experience and lets them know they aren’t being forgotten. Digital check-in also gives organizations more control over managing the crowd. Here is a closer look at the technology and what you should consider when choosing a system.
The Fundamentals of a Digital Check-In System
Part of the appeal of a digital check-in system is that it is backed by powerful technology yet simple enough for customers and employees to use. Here are the fundamentals of how the system works:
The Check-In Itself
The first step of the queuing process brings the customer into the system. Check-in can be achieved by:
- Scanning a QR code
- Entering information at a kiosk
- Sending a text message to a displayed number
If necessary, an employee can be on standby to help enter customers into the system. How individual organizations handle the actual check-in with a virtual queuing platform is up to them. Whichever method(s) they decide to employ, the signage and instructions they use must be clear so customers aren’t left wondering what to do to get in line.
After checking in, customers are in the queue, but they aren’t standing in a physical queue and don’t have to stick around a designated waiting area. They receive updates on their smartphones on their place in line, estimated wait times, or unexpected delays. Customers may also be asked for additional information about the nature of their service and any special needs they might have.
The obvious difference between a virtual queue and the traditional waiting experience is that with a digital system, customers are free to move wherever they want—instead of being “confined” to a certain space—and still be in line.
Eventually, customers in a digital queue will get a notification that their turn is soon followed by an alert to come to the counter for service. Employees already have the information necessary—gathered when customers checked in and while they waited—to begin the interaction immediately.
Benefits of a Digital Check-In System
Digital queuing takes a check-in process that is often confusing and impersonal and turns it into a highly efficient, customer-friendly operation. Some of the benefits of the system include:
Ease of check-in: We’ve all seen—and we’ve all been—customers who are unsure of what to do when they enter a crowded waiting area without a clear queue. Virtual queuing combined with simple, prominent instructions on how to check in eliminates confusion and ensures customers don’t wait even longer than they should.
Improved customer experience: From start to finish, digital check-in prioritizes customers. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that people are free to leave the waiting area—they can roam the store, get a cup of coffee, or do anything else they want until their turn comes up.
Improved employee experience: Overflowing waiting areas and irritated customers can be stressful for your staff. By eliminating stress for customers, digital check-in also eliminates stress for employees, who spend less time managing the queue and more time focusing on the customer in front of them.
Better service and more efficiency: With the information gathered during check-in and as the customer waits, service is often quicker and results in better customer satisfaction. The added efficiency ultimately allows you to serve more customers—and gives customers more time and reason to shop—which improves the bottom line.
Use Cases for Digital Check-In
A digital check-in system can benefit a variety of organizations, from small businesses to franchises to government offices. Here are a few examples of operations finding success with virtual queuing:
- Retail customer service counters: Although digital queue management is always practical for retail checkout, it’s also great for checking in to the customer service counter, where interactions can take several minutes and long waits can form.
- Automotive service counters: Any automotive business that relies on walk-in traffic—such as car washes, oil-change shops, emission testing services, and tire shops—may experience rush periods that can cause potential customers to leave if there is no apparent order to the queue. Digital check-in helps ensure no customer is overlooked and they have a good idea of how long they might be waiting for service.
- Restaurants: Many restaurants already use a sort of digital check-in, with customers giving a host their name and perhaps getting a buzzer in return that will alert them when their table is ready. Virtual platforms eliminate the buzzer—which is hampered by a limited range—and incorporates more automation into the process to free up staff for other tasks.
- Delis, bakeries, and butchers: Whether the specialty food operation is its own business or a counter inside a grocery store, digital check-in provides a more streamlined, more intuitive experience over other strategies, such as a take-a-number system.
- Healthcare: Medical facilities are notorious for long waits. Pharmacies, optical departments at department stores, vaccine clinics, and urgent care facilities are among the healthcare settings that can benefit from digital queue management. Important patient info can be gathered during the check-in process so people can be served quickly once their turn comes up.
- Amusement parks: Long lines for roller coasters prevent guests from experiencing other parts of the amusement park—including places they would spend money, such as game booths, food and beverage stands, and money-generating attractions (e.g., go-karts). With digital check-in, patrons can reserve a place in the queue and come back when their turn arrives.
- Public facilities: Although customers at a government office, such as a DMV or a city clerk, or a public utility, such as a power company, might not have other options to get the service they need, they still deserve a good experience. Digital check-in helps to not only create a welcoming environment but also build and encourage efficiency with staff and operations.
What to Look for in a Check-In Platform
A digital check-in system won’t deliver on its customer experience potential if it is lacking key features or is too difficult to use. Here are several essential features you should look for when adopting a virtual queuing platform:
The configuration of a digital check-in system should be unique to the needs of your operations, your employees, and, most importantly, your customers. The best solutions offer plenty of options to customize the system you require—but are not so complex that you can’t easily set them up and adjust with minimal effort.
Along the same lines, implementation of the system itself should be straightforward, not requiring a complex IT build or deep technical knowledge. In other words, any manager—with help from the system provider—should be able to get the platform up and running.
SMS is short for short message service and is the official way to say text messaging. An SMS-based virtual queuing system isn’t strictly texting back-and-forth, but more often is sending text alerts with links for the customer to access the system through a web browser on their phones. This approach offers several advantages, including:
- Customers don’t have to download a separate app to use the system.
- Customers are used to looking for alerts on their smartphones.
- Some texts can quickly be read (e.g., “Your turn is almost here, start heading back to the service counter.”) without having to tap a link—streamlining the experience for the customer even more.
Customizable Alerts and Notifications
A strength of digital check-in is the two-way communication that occurs after a customer is in the system. Alerts and notifications can be customized to make the most of these interactions. For example, if a wait might be taking unusually long, the system can automatically send a notification thanking the customer for their patience and offering a coupon for 10 percent off their next purchase.
Top platforms take promotions to the next level, sending customers offers, ads for upcoming sales, and news directly to their phones. Once in the system, customers stay in the system, so you can send promotions long after the customer’s business that day concludes.
Along the same lines as sending promotions to customers through the queuing systems, the best platforms also allow you to invite people to answer surveys on their experience—not only about their wait, but also the entire interaction with your organization.
This data normally can be difficult to come by, partly because getting customers to access the survey is a challenge. With digital check-in, you can text the survey link directly to people’s phones—they just tap the link and can start answering questions.
Reporting and Analytics
Digital queuing gathers data on all aspects of the process, from the number of people checking in to how many customers abandon the queue to average wait times—and much, much more. These analytics deliver key operational data that can benefit your check-in strategy as well as your entire operation, including staffing, training, and hiring.
When considering reporting capabilities, look for a platform that makes data accessible easily and in real time. That way, if, for example, the system is showing a surge of check-ins, it can automatically alert you of the activity so you can devote more employees to handling the crowd.
As already stated, a quality digital check-in system can increase sales. Read our guide Why Virtually Queued Customers Buy More to learn why this benefit is impossible to ignore.