There is no shortage of studies on the perception of waiting time and the consequences for establishments that do not invest in an effective queue management system. Indeed, no less than 47% of French people find it unacceptable to wait more than 3-4 minutes in a queue (1). However, with the gradual disappearance of measures linked to Covid-19, bad habits have returned: queues have returned, whether to pay at the checkout counter in shops, to visit an exhibition or an attraction, or to request a service in an administration... Although this is a real marketing strategy for some establishments (e.g. Big Mamma restaurants), for others, poor queue management is a real risk.
Before taking stock of existing solutions in 2022, let's detail the benefits of a queue management system.
Why have a queue management system?
The main benefit of a queue management system is clearly to reduce waiting time.
Indeed, whichever system is chosen, the more efficient handling of queues will significantly reduce the time spent by users or customers waiting. This will be particularly true as perceived waiting time (which tends to be higher than actual waiting time) will also be reduced by screens that can display both real-time estimated waiting time and other relevant information.
The wait will then be experienced differently by users: they will no longer have to wait for long minutes in a long physical queue. Instead, they will be able to pass the time comfortably in a dedicated area. Some systems even allow them to wait wherever they want: a revolution in the still too often archaic field of customer reception.
In addition to the benefits for visitor satisfaction, having such a system also allows frontline employees to be more efficient and productive in their daily tasks: they will no longer be under pressure from frustrated and impatient customers. And happy employees mean happy customers! This is not just an adage, since according to one study, about 20% of the variations in satisfaction scores are linked to changes in employee scores (2).
The most important element to consider when installing a queue management system is a large enough screen. Indeed, it is a real digital marketing tool because, in addition to providing valuable information such as waiting time and counter numbers, a screen allows you to broadcast other promotional or useful information to your customers. It is a good way to increase your turnover.
Finally, having a tool to manage your queues also means gathering essential information about the management of your counters in order to better forecast and control the number of people. It is the possibility of analysing the efficiency of each of them, of being aware of the busy and slow times to act accordingly in terms of staff planning.
What queue management systems are available on the market?
You've decided to take the plunge and invest in a queue management solution? However, there are a multitude of them with different functionalities and budgets and you don't know which one to choose. Let's take stock:
The "classic" single queue systems
The single queue management system consists of 3 steps on the user side:
The visitor enters the building and goes to the ticket machine.
The ticket machine only dispenses tickets in order of arrival. With the ticket in hand, the customer can wait in a waiting room.
Using a screen (or, more rarely, a sound signal), the visitor follows the chronological processing of previous numbers before being called by his or her own number with the indication of the counter number.
On the staff side, they will be able to focus exclusively on processing requests by clicking a button to call the next customer.
Note: this is one of the easiest solutions to deploy, but it is important to remember that everyone will be on the same page: visitors with enquiries that can be dealt with in 5 minutes and those with more time-consuming enquiries that can take 30 minutes!
Virtual queue systems
The concept of virtual queue management is relatively simple.
The ticket dispenser is no longer a simple paper dispenser. It becomes intelligent: we speak of an interactive kiosk since it offers customers or visitors several options depending on the reason for their visit. The terminal can even replace the passage number with the customer's first name if the latter so wishes: a good way of creating a link as soon as the visitor arrives.
After collecting their ticket (paper or virtual by SMS), customers join a virtual queue: they can either wait in a dedicated room with a call screen or go about their business. In this case, an SMS will warn them when their turn is approaching.
Employees will have access to a range of useful information: number of people in the queue, time of registration of each customer, reason for visit, etc., while the management will be able to use statistics on counter traffic, processing times and the services most in demand.
Variant: Instead of having to go to the venue to pick up a ticket from the kiosk, customers can pick it up directly from their smartphone: a boon for establishments that do not offer online appointment booking.
Note: with such a system, you can make the reception of your customers much more fluid. Remember, however, to provide clear signage for your less technophile visitors, as this could lead to widespread confusion!
Waiting time measurement systems
An original solution that is not often talked about is the measurement of waiting time and its communication proposed by the startup Affluences. Indeed, measuring waiting time can be a good alternative to virtual queue management since it is possible to obtain the same results as the previous solutions, i.e. reducing waiting time and improving the customer experience.
The principle is very simple: counting systems, also known as sensors, are installed at reception desks or in areas where physical queues are formed. Using an artificial intelligence algorithm, the sensors measure the estimated waiting time in real time. The information on the number of visitors is then communicated in real time but also in a predictive manner, all through a web and mobile application or via webAPIs.
Results: informed of the waiting time in real time, the most hurried visitors choose the least frequented time slots, while the most patient ones decide to queue knowingly. This automatically smoothes out the flow of visitors over the course of the day or even the week or month.
Staff and management will have access to the average waiting times per counter and therefore to the services most in demand. They will also have visibility over the day and the week thanks to the expected waiting times.
Note: with this solution, you give the power back to your visitors to take control of their time. Here again, it is important to communicate widely about the service and in particular the media where the real-time waiting time information is available so that it is used by as many people as possible.
When choosing, you should consider several things: the configuration of your establishment, your reception strategy, the type of visitors, their volume... To help you, here is a summary table (not exhaustive) of the technologies described! Several criteria have been taken into account: ease of installation, ease of maintenance, the result, i.e. the reduction in waiting time, the quality of the data collected and the cost.
Easy to install
Easy to maintain
Reduction of waiting time and its perception
Single queue systems
Virtual queue systems
Waiting time measurement systems