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Virtual Queuing: How Digitizing the Waitlist Experience Makes for Better Customers

by Qtrac

Woman smiling on phone.

Do you dream of perfect customers? People who buy a lot, don’t monopolize your staff’s time, treat employees with respect, and support your business again and again and again?

Just getting a few customers like that is wonderful, but moving the rest of them toward the ideal is a challenge. Delivering a great customer experience can help.

One element of a business that always seems to chisel away at customer experience is queues. No one likes waiting, and waiting a long time in one place amid a crowd—especially in a world with pandemics—tends to bring out the worst in customers.

Digitizing the waitlist and queue offers a way to reverse the negative attitudes customers have toward waiting. Here’s a look at how virtual queuing makes for better customers:

Virtual Queuing, Explained

A traditional physical queue follows a basic concept: People arrive for service, get in line behind customers who arrived before them, and then wait their turn to be served. Some physical queues are unavoidable, such as a TSA checkpoint or a grocery store checkout, and some organizations manage their physical queues well and minimize the stress for their patrons. However, the sight of a long line makes most people think, “Ugh, I have to stay here and wait.” A lobby area or a take-a-number counter may eliminate the back-and-forth queue but does little to improve the waitlist experience.

Digitizing your waitlist takes the standing or sitting out of the queuing equation. With a virtual queuing system in place, the process is simple for customers:

  • People check into the waitlist with the help of an employee or by scanning a QR code, using a touchscreen kiosk, or sending a text.
  • Customers, who are now free to move away from the service counter, receive notifications on their smartphones on their status in the digital line. These alerts can include estimated wait times, place in line, unexpected delays, and anything else that keeps the customer informed.
  • Customers and employees can interact with each other, sharing crucial info such as what kind of service the customer requires, any special assistance (e.g., tech expert, bilingual speaker) the customer might need, and anything else that expedites service.
  • The system can send digital offers, such as coupons or news of upcoming sales, to customers while they wait.
  • Customers receive a notification when their turn is imminent so they can return to be served.

Virtual queuing doesn’t eliminate waits but, instead, reimagines them for customers craving a better experience.

Why Virtually Queued Customers Buy More

How Digitized Waitlists Benefit Customers

By adopting virtual queuing, organizations fundamentally change how people wait to be served. This produces many benefits for the customer, including:

Freedom for Customers to Wait on Their Own Terms

Physical queues and designated waiting areas tie customers to a certain spot, making them afraid or unable to step away lest they lose their place in line. Digital waitlists eliminate this inconvenience and allow people to go wherever and do whatever they want while they wait their turn. Customers get time to stroll around the store, get a cup of coffee, run a quick errand, or anything else that the traditional queue might have prevented them from doing.

Accurate Wait Times

It can be difficult to determine how long you’ll be waiting just by looking at the length of a line or the number of people in a lobby. Even a pick-a-number system leaves people guessing and can be demoralizing. Virtual queuing systems calculate wait times—and then deliver those wait times to customers’ smartphones—that are far more accurate than customers or even employees can estimate. And the more data the system gathers over time, the more accurate those wait times become.

Employees Ready to Deliver Great Service

Thanks to interactions between customers and the virtual queuing system, employees are set up to deliver the best service possible once customers reach the top of the digital waitlist. Once in the system, customers can answer simple, multiple-choice questions through an intuitive interface on their phones. If they need to send staff a quick message or request, they can do so while they wait. That communication also works in the other direction—if employees have questions unique to the customer, they can ask through the system.

Possibly Shorter Wait Times

Virtual queuing streamlines the waitlist process and allows employees to focus on the customer in front of them instead of trying to manage the throng of people in a physical queue or waiting area. The outcome of this efficiency is often—although not always—shorter wait times, which is an obvious benefit that customers always appreciate.

A Better Experience Equals Better Customers

Your goals for digitizing your waitlist should go beyond simply creating a better customer experience. Ultimately, you should also be creating better customers. Consider:

  • Customers who are free to move about the store have more opportunities to make additional purchases that might not happen if they were stuck in a physical queue.
  • Customers who don’t feel confined by a physical queue or waiting area experience less stress. In turn, they are less likely to take that stress out on your staff. With many organizations struggling to adequately staff their operations, happier employees who don’t want to quit are an asset too important to ignore.
  • Customers in a virtual queue are more focused at the point of service, thanks to the interactions that have occurred while they waited. As a result, they need less time to explain what they need, thus allowing your employees to finish up sooner.
  • Perceived wait time decreases when customers aren’t feeling tense and can wait on their own terms. Even if the actual wait time is the same, virtual queuing helps people enjoy the experience more—and that leads to more sales and more cooperation with employees.

In other words, virtual queuing helps build spendier, more respectful customers. And the benefits to the organization don’t stop there.

The ROI of a Digitized Waitlist

For many organizations, the usual ways of managing queues and waitlists feel like the most cost-effective. However, virtual queuing offers a return on investment that physical queues simply can’t provide. Examples of this ROI include:

  • Additional purchases: Customers not only buy more when they’re free to browse the store while waiting, but they also may take advantage of digital offers sent to their smartphones.
  • Operational efficiency: With shorter wait times and staff better prepared to serve customers (and customers more able to articulate what they want), employees can see more customers in the same amount of time.
  • An uncrowded look: The sight of a crowded queue or waiting area can scare many people into not joining the line. Moreover, the actual crowd may prevent customers from easily getting from one side to the other—where a potential purchase might have been waiting. When the crowd is eliminated, people are more likely to join the queue and not be intimidated to shop, even if they know they’ll be waiting.
  • Less abandonment: Showing people exactly how long they can expect to wait decreases the odds they’ll give up on the queue and go home. And if they do leave, because their basic info is in your system, you can send follow-up messages to show that their business matters to you.
  • Repeat customers: People generally don’t forget great service and great experiences—both of which virtual queuing can provide. Satisfied customers often become repeat customers, tell friends and family what a good experience they had with your organization, and leave favorable online reviews that impress future customers.

The possibility of customers buying more is appealing to many businesses looking to increase profitability. To learn more about this advantage, check out our guide, Why Virtually Queued Customers Buy More.


Why Virtually Queued Customers Buy More

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