How Virtual Queuing Helps You Service Customers with Less Staff
Businesses continue to struggle with staffing their operations, and the dilemma is taking its toll on the customer experience.
A crowded business with no one available to serve customers in a timely manner isn’t good. However, an empty business that still doesn’t have enough employees to efficiently attend to customer needs can look just as bad, if not worse. Waiting 20 minutes in a queue of three people can lead customers to think you don’t know what you’re doing …
In these challenging times, organizations must figure out how to serve more customers—and even serve them better—with fewer employees. Virtual queuing can help.
Navigating the Great Resignation
The labor market was already tight before COVID-19 emerged. The pandemic threw the economy into chaos in spring 2020, with layoffs sidelining some of the workforce and lockdowns sending many workers into remote environments. Governments responded by expanding unemployment benefits and other assistance programs in an attempt to help people out and reduce the damage to the economy.
More than a year later, the economy more or less stabilized (although it is still in flux thanks to inflation), but an unexpected thing happened: People weren’t in a hurry to rejoin the workforce. Moreover, employees began to leave jobs, even after expanded unemployment benefits expired and even if they didn’t have another job lined up. Reasons behind the Great Resignation are up for debate, but some include:
Increased wages: As businesses become more focused on meeting their staffing needs amid the tighter labor market, they’ve turned to paying employees more. Workers aren’t hesitating to jump to jobs with better wages.
More opportunities: There was a time when employees might have felt that they couldn’t afford to lose or leave a job. With so much demand for labor, that fear has dissipated for many people, who figure they can quit a job they don’t like and be confident they will find another opportunity—almost at their leisure.
Fear of COVID-19: Some people remain skittish about the virus that’s still circulating and may not want to work in a closed environment such as a store, bank, or office, where they would be around potentially unmasked and unvaccinated customers and coworkers.
Mental health: The pandemic caused many employees to reassess their priorities and conclude that life is too short to be stuck in a job they don’t like. Being harassed by angry customers can take its toll, and for some people, even if they mostly do like their job, it’s simply not worth their sanity.
Businesses have responded to the Great Resignation by improving elements of the employee experience, from wages to benefits to scheduling. However, these efforts are not proving as effective as they once might have, and organizations must figure out how to preserve—if not enhance—the customer experience with the staff they have.
How Virtual Queuing Can Help
A virtual queue management system offers understaffed businesses a way to do more with less. The technology does far more than simply help manage wait times.
What Is Virtual Queuing?
A virtual queue all but eliminates the need for a physical waiting line in which people stand in line or are confined to a waiting area. Instead, patrons enter a digital line—either by scanning a QR code, visiting a website, texting, or checking in with an employee—and are notified on their smartphones when their turn has arrived.
How Does Queue Management Benefit Customers?
Virtual queuing often can shorten wait times, but even when it doesn’t, it still offers an improved customer experience. Some of the benefits include:
- Customers are free to roam while they await their turn. They can shop, get a cup of coffee, go for a quick walk … anything that doesn’t involve standing or sitting in a designated place.
- Customers receive digital notifications with their place in line and estimated wait times so they don’t feel so helpless and uninformed. They can also plan their waits better—they’ll know if they have time to get that coffee or take a longer stroll.
- The system can ask questions of customers so employees know what kind of service to provide ahead of time, thus creating a better customer experience.
- Customers don’t feel the stress of being stuck in a line or waiting area—which has become even more stressful in the COVID-19 era.
By offering virtual queuing, an organization gives people more control over their waiting experience.
How Does Queue Management Benefit Employees?
Although virtual queuing may seem like a customer-focused technology, it also improves the employee experience. In the current ultra-tight labor market, every advantage you can gain will help retain and empower staff. Here are a few of these benefits:
- Shorter and/or more pleasant waits improve the moods of customers, who then are more inclined to treat employees better at the time of service.
- Through interactions with the system, employees know the service customers need, and they can be prepared to deliver that service right away.
- Managing a physical queue is time-consuming, stressful, and inefficient. Virtual queuing eliminates this responsibility from employees.
These benefits and others not only help employees, but also deliver a strategic advantage to the organizations that those employees make tick.
Maximizing a Virtual Queue Despite Less Staff
As organizations struggle with not having enough staff—and with attracting and retaining employees—a queue management system provides a way to increase efficiency and make the most of the staff you have available. Consider these tools that the best systems offer to maximize your talent, even when you feel understaffed:
The virtual queuing system will notify employees when a customer is on their way to be served. The interactions the system facilitates with customers might reveal if someone needs special service, such as technical knowledge or a bilingual speaker. With notifications, an employee can be pulled from other responsibilities to help a customer without having to spend their whole time at the service counter. Idle time is eliminated—the specialist employee can work on other duties in another part of the business and come over to help when notified.
Queue management collects data on wait times, customers in the queue, and other metrics in real time. This allows you to identify peak periods as they happen and move employees to where they are needed most. In a perfect world, you would have enough staff to handle whatever surge comes your way, but with virtual queueing, you can make adjustments on the fly based on not only what your eyes are seeing on the floor but also what the live data is telling you.
With fewer employees, you can’t afford to not have enough workers to serve customers on any shift—but you also can’t afford to have idle employees when their hours can be used on another day. Data from virtual queuing systems also can be used to pinpoint trends, identify anything out of the ordinary, and, perhaps most importantly, measure staffing needs. Scheduling becomes easier, and employees can be trained for the roles and tasks that the data says are most needed.
Organizations have unique needs for their queues based on factors such as the behavior of their typical patrons, the services being offered, and their employees’ skill sets. A one-size-fits-all virtual queuing approach won’t improve customer flow and employee efficiency; it might even make things worse. Take advantage of the configuration options in a queue management system to best serve your business’s unique requirements. You know your customers and your employees best, so build a queue process that will meet and exceed their expectations.
A Cost-Conscious Strategy
The current staffing crisis isn’t just inconvenient—it costs organizations real money, from lost business of dissatisfied customers to the expense of finding and training new employees when current ones leave. Virtual queuing offers a way to improve the bottom line at a time when every little boost helps.
Furthermore, implementing a queue management system doesn’t need to be expensive. Learn more in our free guide, How to Avoid the Hidden Costs of Purchasing a Queue Management System.