Queueing is never the best part of anyone’s day – especially if they’re at the airport waiting to go on vacation. Standing in a crowd of other people while you’re waiting for service isn’t an ideal way to spend time for anybody.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of waiting in line next to many other people has only become more fraught. How can you implement safe, efficient queues that keep your customers free from both boredom and contamination?
Read more to find out the top five ways to implement an efficient, dauntless queue.
What Is A Queue?
To understand the best way to queue, you first need to understand what queues are. Here are a few commonly asked questions about queueing.
What is a queue? By definition, a queue means people or objects ordered in line to await service. In the context of a business, it refers to customers waiting in line for their turn in a physical queue or online queueing through websites or apps. (More about that later.)
Technically speaking, referring to it as “queue line” is redundant since both words mean the same thing.
Is it queuing or queueing? “Queueing” is the correct spelling.
How do you actually spell the word? The word is also spelled “queue”, not queu or qeue.
What is a call queue? Unlike physical queues, a call queue refers to the practice of putting customers who call your business to get their questions resolved on hold. Compared to physical queueing, call queues are more efficient since they don’t require customers to stand in line and physically queue up.
Why are queues important? Queues matter because they are part of the customer experience with your customer service. Happy customers are far more likely to refer others to your company, with 77% willing to share positive brand experiences with others. You want to be part of that statistic.
Hopefully reading through these frequently asked questions will help you gain a better understanding of what queues really are.
Top 5 Ways to Implement More Efficient Queues
So your company or airline needs a better way for customers to queue up, but you’re at a loss for the best way to implement more effective queueing. Here are the five top ways to implement efficient queueing.
- Establish Queue Times
- Keep Queueing Rules Consistent
- Utilize Self-Check In
- Distract and Entertain
- Implement A Queue Management System
1. Establish Queue Times
Your customers or passengers do not want to be stuck waiting with no measure of time. Standing in a queue with no concept of when it will end and nothing to do is far more likely to arouse feelings of anxiety, powerlessness, and impatience.
For example, let’s look at an invisible queue. Invisible queue refers to when customers are waiting in a call queue without being given any notion of progression. While this is typically done to prevent customers from complaining about the specific time span they’ve been waiting for.
However, this often winds up leading to customer complaints about long waiting times anyway, since there’s no end in sight for waiting.
Giving customers something to do is a great way to circumvent this. “Pre-process waits” feel longer than “in-process” waits, which means you should be rethinking the way you organize your queue times for more time in lines after the “pre-process”. But what if you can’t do that?
Creating expectations is more likely to keep customers patient. “How long will I be waiting?” is not an inherently scary question to hear when they’re queueing. You can resolve this by providing:
- Waiting time estimates on signs
- Average per-appointment queue times
- Employees to field customer queries
- Automated phone updates through a queue management system
Letting people know what to expect in terms of waiting time is the first step to managing expectations. Your customers will appreciate your transparency. It will help them feel more like you’re on their side rather than working without considering their comfort.
2. Keep Queueing Rules Consistent
In customer service, particularly for airlines and travel companies, consistency matters.
Take boarding an airplane as an example.
Everyone accepts that active service members, business class, and customers who might need additional assistance (e.g. small children, people with disabilities, and pregnant women) rank first in terms of boarding order. But if you allowed people who are young and healthy in the last boarding group to get on the flight out of order, most would be displeased.
Customers want to know that the queue rules they abide by are fair. Allowing line cutters to jump ahead with no consequence signals that there’s no point in following the rules, which will only encourage people to start disregarding regulations.
During a pandemic, this is even more important. People are liable to be anxious if they see others cutting in line or disregarding social distancing rules. Making sure they stay in place will make your customers feel better, both physically and emotionally.
In order to make sure your queueing system is still fair, you need to:
- Regulate line cutters. Making sure line cutters don’t get their way is how you keep your other customers’ content.
- Set clear rules for queues. If you give priority to specific customers, list it out for everyone to see. When they know the rules of the system, they are more likely to follow them.
- Provide relief to unexpected waits. If your customers end up waiting longer than usual due to unforeseen circumstances on your end, offer them rewards or support for staying patient. You need to communicate that you empathize with people’s pain so they know you’re on their side.
Maintaining order means keeping your customers on the same page as you. Keep them in the loop about any specific rules or laws, and more than likely they’ll fall into line with your queueing system.
3. Utilize Self-Check In
Many industries use self-check-in so customers can pre-register for their bookings, appointments, or visits. For example, checking into your hotel stay is a necessity if you want to access your room.
Thanks to modern technology, it’s possible for customers to check-in without requiring employee assistance. Self-check-in frees up front desk employees to service more unique or complex customer inquiries instead of getting busy with minor administrative tasks. Plus, it’s a reliable way to shorten your on-site queue.
Comparing the two side by side, you can clearly see the advantages of self-check-in:
Time-consuming for employees/customers
Quick and easy for employees, customers can complete self-check-in from anywhere with remote scheduling
Queues for check-in + actual appointment lines
Personalized, branded forms
Depends on customer service quality and specific circumstances/timing
A higher level of convenience thanks to quick check-in
Poses contamination risk both for employees and customers
No risk of contamination during self-check-in
How can you implement self-check-in at your business location?
- Check-in kiosks. Have ample floor space? Install kiosks so customers can check in on their own at a stand without cluttering up a queue area.
- Barcode scanners. For retailers or ticketing, barcode scanners by the door can verify online tickets.
- Online queue management system. With a QMS, your customers can check in wherever and whenever they want.
4. Distract and Entertain
This isn’t to say you need to start churning out branded films or anything like that. Simply put, your customers hate monotony just like anybody. The less they’re paying attention to the fact that they’re in line, the better they’ll feel.
Here are some quick tips to distract and entertain people who are in a queue at your business:
- Screens. Whether it’s something as simple as PSA videos or as complicated as interactive exhibits, playing anything on screens can distract your audience from waiting.
- Give them something else to do. Airports have immigration forms set up for when you’re queueing up to enter customs since filling out forms in line feels like saving time. Give your customers something else to occupy themselves and the wait won’t feel like a wait at all.
- Creative interaction. Gamifying customer service increases customer loyalty and reduces complaints, so it might be worth looking into the ways you can interact with or even reward people for staying in the queue for a long time.
- Cut the wait entirely. Implementing an online queueing system means your customers don’t have to wait on-location any longer, keeping them safer and more entertained by their own means.
You don’t have to be a specialized entertainment facility such as an amusement park or escape room for you to keep customers entertained while they wait. All you need is a more efficient queueing strategy. Put thought into distracting your customers, and their wait will be a breeze.
5. Implement A Queue Management System
Queue management systems are the top way to streamline your customer’s queueing experience.
Think about it from their perspective. They could:
- Stand in a long queue and wait for minutes/hours, potentially risking exposure to coronavirus and/or the elements, or just plain exhaustion and boredom.
- Check-in from home and show up whenever they want to claim their spot in the queue.
Clearly, the second option sounds a lot more appealing. But the appeal isn’t just for customers.
Many queue management systems offer analytics and feedback reporting. Intelligent recommendations based on your current performance grow your business over time, providing clear insight into what’s working and what’s not for your company.
Queue management systems can help implement more efficient queues with little to no effort from your end. Simply install one and you’ll find a dauntless queue solution that provides all the convenience with none of the hard work.
Clearly, queue management systems are superior to manual queue management. Let’s take a look at how you can choose the right system for your business.
Evaluation Steps for Choosing a Queue Management System
Let’s say you’re eager to implement a new queue management system for your company but don’t quite know where to start. Here are the evaluation steps you should be looking at when choosing a queue management system for yourself.
- Look and Feel
- Reporting: Data Visibility
- Integration Capability
- Ease of Implementation
- Support/Customer Service
Step 1: Industry
Your industry will likely determine what kind of functionality you need in a queue management solution.
Service industry companies like a beauty salon might need a technician-centric management system where you can schedule based on specific skills or client needs. Or perhaps you’re a travel agency that is focused on appointment booking and streamlining client-agent communication, which would demand a simple messaging solution for updates and information.
Think about the role industry plays in your needs.
- What kind of support do you need from a queue management system?
- How will your employees use the QMS?
- How do your customers interact with you?
- Are you providing sessions? Services? Goods? All of the above?
- Will you offer your services/goods to customers online or in-person?
Maybe you want to pick a solution that’s industry-specific to provide for your exact needs. If not, you may find a more general queue management system more flexible and reliable.
Step 2: Price
Needless to say, pricing will be part of practical consideration for a queueing system. It’s most helpful to have a price range based on a variety of considerations.
Price matters. At the same time, your new queue management system will help you save money in the long run by cutting down on:
- Employee time wasted
- Customer dissatisfaction
- Queue management cost (entertainment systems, location upkeep costs, etc.)
At the end of the day, it’s important to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. You want to be realistic without penny-pinching. If you see expansion in your future, it might be worth investing in a product that has lower-priced plans you can upgrade down the road.
Step 3: Flexibility
Flexible solutions can be adapted for a wide variety of businesses and offer versatile functionality. Even better than that is the fact that they can work for companies at different scales.
Queue management systems that are more specific in terms of industry or functionality versus more flexible systems each offer their own perks and downsides:
Specific QMS (Industry-Specific or Functionality-Specific)
Narrower functionality might need best practices listed
More streamlined; can be great for highly specific business models
Might require additional supervisor oversight to adapt to industry
Wider variety of customer experience available; can be great for broader scope business models
Whether you’re looking for a more or less flexible solution will depend on your business. If you see your company transforming and undergoing great structural changes in the future due to expansion or other factors, a flexible solution may be more useful. If your company’s queueing needs won’t change in the foreseeable future, a more industry/functionality-specific solution may work well.
Step 4: Look and Feel
Design is essential to customer experience. Companies that focus on design to increase customer retention by 5% could see a 25% profit increase.
For the look and feel of your queue management system, you need to consider:
- Customizability. Customized branding boosts brand recognition.
- Intuitive UX. Accessible user experience keeps customers coming back for more.
- Adaptability. Your queuing system needs to look good, whether it’s on a phone, laptop, or tablet.
Do research on the look and feel of a queue management system before you make a purchase. When you do end up investing in one, spend some time figuring out how you want to customize it with your branding. Little touches like that can help you brand your customer service experience and set you apart from competitors.
Step 5: Reporting: Data Visibility
Data is all the talk these days. Companies that make use of big data see an 8-10% increase in profit.
Even if you don’t have the resources to analyze complicated data, a sophisticated enough queue management system with attached data analysis capability may bring you visible business benefits such as:
- Reduce queue length. Intelligent queue management software can analyze the inefficiencies in your queueing and instruct you on how to streamline them.
- Improve customer satisfaction. Analyzing customer feedback can inform you how to improve upon it with actionable insights.
- Ramp up staff performance. Identifying the gaps in your staff’s performance is the first step to improving their overall customer service.
You don’t have to become a data expert to use data in improving business performance. An effective queue management system can mark the beginning of finding more efficient customer service tactics in general.
Step 6: Scalability
The reason you’re investing in a queue management system is to expand. So why would you want a queueing solution that doesn’t grow with you?
- Multiple locations. Your queue management system should be accessible across locations.
- Remote-friendly. Accounting for people who aren’t on-site or want to order something online, you should offer queueing options for customers placing orders for remote services.
- Low Device Cost. Ideally, your queue management system shouldn’t require physical devices to attach to. Although kiosks might be useful, the best queue management should be accessible via your customer’s devices at no additional cost to yourself.
The best scalability is for a system that’s adaptable and flexible.
Step 7: Integration Capability
You never want your customer’s choice of device, calendar, or platform to disqualify your business. When accounting for integration, you should think about how to account for different:
- Calendar apps
Integration capability is how you can stay connected with customers no matter where they are. Make sure the queue management system you implement has flexible integrations.
Step 8: Ease of Implementation
Your queue management system shouldn’t make your life more difficult. Implementing the system should not be overly challenging for you and your employees.
Is your queueing system:
- Easy to learn for your customers?
- Simple to install (across devices/locations/users)?
- Accessible through instructions/documentation?
Finding the right way to implement your system might require some time, but the queue management system itself should support your efforts. This leads into the final evaluation step for a queue management system.
Step 9: Support/Customer Service
A great customer support team can make an originally challenging implementation process far easier to install and grow accustomed to. Plus, good customer support is core when it comes to troubleshooting bugs, integration issues, or anything else going wrong with your queue management system.
Of course, live customer service isn’t the only form of customer support. Documentation (such as webinars, FAQ’s, tutorials, blog posts, etc.) is also extremely helpful during the process of implementing and using a queue management system.
Either way, customer support should be accessible and available when you need it. You should have plenty of options both for active and passive forms of customer support.
Next Steps: Use Intelligent Queues
Implementing more efficient queues is about finding the right queue management techniques and utilizing the right technology. It may seem challenging at first, but with the right solution, you’ll be able to find a good way to manage queues at maximum efficiency.
Interested in trying out an intelligent queue management system with real-time feedback? Try a 7-day free trial of Skiplino here.