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Using Data to Debunk 6 Common Myths About Virtual Queuing

by Qtrac

Man getting in a virtual queue.

Virtual queue management systems are revolutionizing how organizations handle their queues and deliver the best waiting experience possible to the people they serve. Customers who once dreaded long lines now feel more in control, while employees can provide better service with less stress.

Nevertheless, myths persist on the technology and its capabilities, which may stop businesses from considering a queue management system. Data doesn’t lie, however, and here’s a look at how the numbers debunk six common misconceptions about virtual queuing.

Myth No. 1: Slower days mean shorter waits.

Every business has its slow days and periods of the day that are less busy. Those trends are identified and then inform operational strategy, including staffing. But trends aren’t absolutes—you can still end up with a surprisingly busy hour in which customers find themselves waiting a while for service.

In 2021, we pulled data from financial institution branches using the Qtrac platform and found the longest average wait time was Sundays: 13.5 minutes, and more than a minute than the next-highest wait (Mondays, 12.4 minutes). Not many people do their banking on Sundays, but the ones who do might wait longer simply because the branch isn’t staffed for a Sunday rush—and nor should it be.

Customer volume can be unpredictable, especially on “slow” days, and sometimes surprise waits will be unavoidable. Moreover, if only four people are in line but only one employee is available to serve them, at an average of 10 minutes needed per customer, that’s still a half hour before the last person is served—in an otherwise mostly empty queue. With virtual queuing, customers can at least wait on their own terms while not feeling ignored.

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Myth No. 2: Customers don’t shop as much in brick-and-mortar stores.

For years, brick-and-mortar stores were predicted to wither, giving way to the inevitable rise of online shopping. Although digital retail is firmly entrenched with consumers, the reports of the death of in-store shopping have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, the data points to people preferring shopping in person instead of by clicking.

Consider these stats from First Insight:

  • Seventy-one percent of in-store shoppers will spend more than $50 as opposed to only 54 percent of online shoppers.
  • Eighty-nine percent of women and 78 percent of men will add extra items to their carts when shopping in person, compared with 77 and 67 percent, respectively, for online shopping.
  • Just 5 percent of shoppers never buy more than what they came to the store for versus 9 percent of online shoppers.

The COVID-19 pandemic figured to blunt consumers’ enthusiasm, but a January 2021 Raydiant report found that 46 percent still preferred shopping in person—a decline of 9 percent from the previous year, but not so bad considering how coronavirus temporarily changed all our habits. (The report hasn’t been updated yet for 2022, but last year’s report was released before vaccines were widely available.)

The bottom line is that customers like the in-store experience, so delivering a great experience is imperative. Virtual queuing gives people more time and freedom to browse, which leads to more purchases and a willingness to spend. Also, by not forcing them to wait in a crowded queue or lobby, customers who might be nervous about COVID-19 feel more at ease.

Myth No. 3: Virtual queuing doesn’t reduce service times.

One argument against virtual queuing we’ve heard is that whether a customer is in a virtual or physical line doesn’t matter at the point of service—it will take just as much time when their turn comes up. To debunk this myth, consider this statistic published in 2020: For every additional minute waiting beyond a certain reference point, a customer will require 21 seconds, on average, of service time.

Virtual queue management often can reduce waiting times—efficiency is gained throughout the process, including:

  • Allowing employees to focus on the customer in front of them instead of managing the queue
  • From information digitally gathered while customers wait—info that employees will have readily available

Also, customers who aren’t stressed out waiting are more focused, more cooperative, and less cranky at the point of service—they’re simply better customers. Reducing waiting times ultimately flips the data: Customers require less time for service to be completed. Besides increased customer satisfaction, your business benefits in that it can serve more people in the same amount of time.

Myth No. 4: Virtual queuing is impersonal.

In our digital world, you may think that the last thing consumers want to see is another app telling them how to shop. After all, isn’t the human experience preferable and the reason people continue to embrace brick-and-mortar shopping?

The data suggests otherwise. Research from 2019 found that customers using a retail app made purchases 33 percent more frequently, bought 34 percent more items, and spent 37 percent more 18 months after the launch of the app.

Virtual queuing isn’t a retail app per se, but it helps customers enjoy a better retail experience in which they may be more inclined to use your other branded apps. More than anything, this research shows customers don’t resist technology when shopping, which can extend to the queue management system you use. Plus, the best platforms aren’t applications that need to be installed onto a smartphone—customers receive messages and updates on their phone via text, then click links to give or receive additional information.

Myth No. 5: If virtual queuing isn’t reducing wait times, it’s useless.

Sometimes, an unexpected crush of customers will be so, well, crushing, that a queue management system won’t deliver the efficiency you’re used to. Or, you are short-staffed and can’t fill the gaps, leading to wait times that nothing can immediately solve.

In these fluky, though not uncommon, situations, you might wonder if virtual queuing is worth the investment because it may not reduce wait times and, thus, the customer experience. Freeing the customer from a physical queue or waiting area provides an extra benefit that’s often overlooked: Perceived wait times decrease even if the actual wait times don’t.

In other words, customers may not feel like they’re waiting 30 minutes when they can move about. If they’re stuck in line, that 30 minutes can feel like an hour. Decades of research back this idea of perceived wait times, including an oft-cited study that found that shoppers overestimated their time in line by 36 percent.

Plenty of research has also proved the adage that time flies when you’re having fun. Take shoppers out of the line and let them do something that’s fun—or at least not as dreary as waiting in a crowded physical queue—and they tend to underestimate their time waiting, perhaps thinking, “Hey, that went faster than I thought,” even if it didn’t.

Myth No. 6: Customers can leave too easily.

When you’ve been standing in a physical queue for a long time, you’re invested, so you’re less likely to leave because of the time already spent waiting. So, there might be an argument that the personal investment isn’t as strong with a virtual queue because leaving is as simple as ignoring your phone and not returning.

Our data, taken from 587 bank branches using Qtrac in 2021, refutes this idea. We’ve shown that a virtual queue drives efficiency, which often leads to shorter wait times. The numbers we crunched revealed that doubling a wait from five to 10 minutes doubled the rate of abandonment. Going from five to 30 minutes quadrupled that rate.

The takeaway here is that a virtual queue doesn’t increase abandonment—long waits do. The best thing to do is implement a system that helps reduce average wait times and create a better experience for customers so they’re less frustrated and don’t mind waiting. A digital queue also allows you to follow up with people in the system who decide to leave, something you can’t easily do when a customer gives up on a physical queue.

The Qtrac platform offers many ways to generate your own reports and use the data to identify trends and inform strategy. Request a demo to learn more about our analytics capabilities.

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