We talk to managers every day about the challenges they face across all aspects of the customer journey. Waiting line and queue management presents a unique challenge in that the experience of “waiting” can leave a lasting impression. A well-managed queue leaves customers feeling satisfied while a poorly-managed queue can quickly frustrate an otherwise positive experience. Here we answer some of the most common questions we receive about queue management to help you create a more positive experience for your customers and better bottom line results for your business:
Certainly the length of the queue matters to your customers, but the physical length of the line is just part of the equation. A line may look long, but if it is clearly well-organized and people are moving quickly through it, that reality can trump the initial anxiety of seeing a snaking queue. Likewise, a line that looks short but appears unorganized or slow-moving will turn customers away. When it comes to queues, reality and perception combine to form a complete impression.
Not every business offers Texas BBQ or an NYC cronut, which means not every business can afford to make people wait in a long, slow-moving line. When people feel like they’ve been kept waiting for too long, frustration and annoyance sets in. Distraction (in-line merchandising, digital entertainment), communication (lights or call numbers and digital displays to efficiently call the next customer forward), and being attentive to customers’ needs (opening more service stations) can make your queue more tolerable and prolong the onset of frustration.
The idea of a single-line queue can sometimes be daunting to customers. Though studies have proven that a single-line queue leading to multiple servers is more efficient than a multiple-line/multi-server queue, your customers might not be able to see that one line is better than many. The facts still remain. A single-line queue has shorter average wait times, promotes a sense of fairness, cuts down on the stress of selecting the wrong line, reduces jockeying, and reduces sweethearting.
A virtual queue is a waiting line, without the physical line. Customers register for their turn to be served and then wait for service doing whatever they please. The virtual queue can cut down on customer frustration because customers have the freedom to choose how they spend their waiting time rather than being stuck in an actual line, reducing their perceived wait time. Virtual queuing also increases service efficiency, disperses waiting crowds, increases impulse sales, and allows businesses to communicate directly with customers via digital displays or mobile devices.
Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time, so you never really want to leave your waiting customers with nothing to do. In any retail environment, the ability to keep shopping while waiting significantly reduces perceived wait times. A distracted customer who can browse in-line merchandising is a customer who isn’t focused on the length of their wait. Entertainment is always a wise distraction, and this can be achieved through digital displays situated in or near the waiting line. Run promos, ads, TV shows, movie trailers, cartoons, or how-to videos. The almighty screen is still the ultimate time-suck and in a good way when it’s keeping people busy in a queue. And, of course, the virtual queue allows customers to keep themselves busy because they’re not focused on waiting in a line.
Through today’s mobile queuing technology, your customers can register for their place in line – minutes, hours, or even days in advance – via their mobile device. Combined with virtual queuing, text alerts can be sent to notify customers of their turn for service. It’s also possible to give customers a push notification telling them approximately how long it will be, providing ample time to return to the service area from wherever they happen to be waiting. Providing approximate wait times also preempts any overestimation on the customer’s part of how long they’ve actually been waiting.
Stanchions are upright bars or posts that hold retractable belts, ropes, or panels in order to create and define the structure of a queue. Stanchions can be freestanding or they can be mounted in place with bolts, magnets, or weighted steel. Stanchions have many jobs, the most important of which include directing customer flow, expanding and contracting lines, creating a foundation for merchandising displays, and enhancing safety.
The goals in queue management should be to create a line that is well-organized, safe, clearly marked, and efficient enough to meet customer expectations. To reach these goals, it’s important to address the four components of a waiting line:
The entry points: The area where customers enter the queue. The waiting lines: The length of the line and the amount of time customers spend waiting. Service channels: The various points of service available to customers. Exit points: Where the customer leaves the line.
Each step of the queuing process is important, from start to finish. Queue management systems are often used to aid managers in monitoring the progress of a line, what’s happening within that line, and how service agents are performing.
Sixty-five percent of retail sales are driven by impulse shopping. Instead of leaving customers to their own devices as they’re held captive in a line, it’s better to give them something to do – and that includes in-line merchandising. The bottom line improves, and customer satisfaction improves too because their perceived wait time is reduced when they have something to do.
The last thing any business wants to see is a customer leaving the line (or not even making it into the line because it looks so unpleasant) and heading for the exit. Customers typically renege because:
The service agents are slow or socializing too much. There are available but unmanned service stations during busy times. There is no forward progress after two to three minutes of waiting. They believe they’ve chosen the wrong line. They can’t find the queue.
Queues, as you can see, aren’t so simple. But they are important. There are so many elements that go into creating a well-oiled and efficient waiting line. Have we answered your top questions? If not, send us a line and we’ll be happy to help.