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Which Is It: Que line, Queue Line, Qline, or Cue Line?

by Qtrac

When you are patiently waiting at a coffee shop for your morning latte, are you in a que line, a cue line, a Q-line, or a queue line?

After seeing this spelled so many ways over the years, we feel we need to set the record straight. In Spanish and Portuguese, “que” means “what,” so saying “que line” is sort of saying “what line”—which might come off as ironic in a bad way if the line is long.

“Cue line” might be something a director says to an assistant when an actor needs to start rehearsing a scene. Or perhaps a cue line is the abstract path in which one moves a pool cue in billiards.

We’re still not sure about Q-line. Perhaps a memorable quote from the character Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation?

The correct term is queue line. We don’t mind if you prefer to spell it differently, but we want you to thoroughly understand what queue lines are and how they affect your business operations.

What Is a Queue Line?

Simply, a queue line is an ordered group of people waiting for their turn to do something. That sounds abstract, but everyday people encounter queue lines all the time. For example:

  • People wait in grocery and department stores for their turn to pay for their items.
  • Some retail businesses, such as bakeries or deli counters, direct their customers to take a number and wait for service until that number is called.
  • Bank customers may wait, especially at peak times, in a single queue line for an available teller. The drive-through doesn’t eliminate the queue—you’re just waiting from your car.
  • Airport travelers deal with multiple queue lines, including checking in their luggage with an airline, waiting in a security line to have their ticket and ID checked, having their carry-on bags and themselves scanned, and waiting to board a plane when their zone is called.
  • Amusement park guests often wait in long queues for popular rides.
  • DMVs and other public sector services use queue lines to manage patrons.
  • If you’ve ever been on a call with customer service and been placed on hold with a voice telling you, “Your call will be answered in the order it was received,” you were technically in a queue line—just not a physical one.

The examples are endless. From restaurants to schools to churches to COVID-19 vaccination sites, people wait in queue lines in myriad settings. And often, these lines need to be managed.

Types of Queue Management Systems

Physical queue lines are generally divided into two types: structured and unstructured . A structured queue is often defined by barriers, such as movable stanchions or permanent fixtures, that assist in creating crowd control. People follow an orderly path until they arrive at the front of the line for their turn to be served.

In an unstructured queue, people still wait in line, but there is little or nothing defining that line. Customers essentially form the queue on their own. This sounds unwieldy—and often, it is—but for some businesses, it can make more sense to go with an unstructured queue.

A third option is quickly becoming more popular, particularly during a pandemic in which people are hesitant to be in close proximity to each other. A virtual queue enables customers to secure a place in line via a kiosk or smartphone, then return when a notification on their phone tells them their turn is next.

Challenges of Queue Lines

In many locations and for many businesses, queue lines are necessary, no matter how much people don’t like waiting. The challenge becomes making the waiting experience as easy and safe as possible, which is difficult with these pain points:

  • Customers may really hate waiting, to the point the line causes anxiety, which can turn them into less-than-enthused customers or drive them to leave without making a purchase.
  • Queue lines may interfere with the flow of traffic through and around the area. Plus, they take up space that could otherwise be used for more retail displays.
  • Employees who need to pull themselves away from their normal duties to manage the line are less efficient.
  • Unstructured queue lines can descend into chaos if they stretch too far. The queue becomes difficult to navigate and impedes other shoppers—and as much as we want to believe in the goodness of our fellow humans, line jumping can be a big problem when the queue is all over the place.

These challenges and others have organizations considering if a virtual queue management system is a more efficient choice.

queue management systems avoiding hidden costs ebook cover

The Potential of Virtual Queue Lines

Virtual queues offer many advantages to the modern business, including:

  • Better traffic flow: Without dozens of people crammed into a certain space, customers more easily move about the store. The area where a physical queue normally would be is no longer a place that shoppers avoid.
  • Happier customers: People who are given an option to wait their turn from wherever they want suffer less anxiety. They perceive waits to be shorter (and often, a virtual queue can shorten wait times) and aren’t as cranky with staff when they’re being served.
  • Happier employees: Workers who aren’t getting barked at or wasting their time managing a chaotic queue become more engaged with their jobs. That drives efficiency and boosts the bottom line.
  • More sales: Customers who can browse the store while they wait are more inclined to make additional purchases. Furthermore, digital ads can be included with smartphone notifications so that when someone is alerted, in real time, that their turn is near, they also can be given a special sales offer tailored to them.

Virtual queue management systems make sense for many organizations, but some still require traditional solutions of a physical line. The experts at Qtrac can help you determine which option is best for you.

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