queue management myths debunked

6 Queue Management Myths, Debunked

Sometimes it’s hard to talk about queue management because there are so many myths and misconceptions surrounding this topic.

People have made up their mind about what queue management is, and it takes a lot of time to help them unlearn this.

Tonight, on a special edition of Mythbusters, we present to you six most popular queue management myths, debunked.

Let’s see if there are any that you still believe.

Myth #1: A long queue is a sign of business’ popularity

We often say that nobody likes queues, but there are some exceptions.

From Wimbledon’s “The Queue” to Apple’s launch-day lines, there are examples of people fanatically looking forward to standing in line for hours, because to them a long queue is a sign of exclusivity.

apple long launch-day lines

Pictured above: when poor queue management is only one step away removed from a cult.

You got to admire the moxy of some business to claim that their long queues are a feature, not a bug.

But what may work for a select few corporations would be generating a different kind of publicity for the 99% of companies out there.

That’s because queues are a telltale sign of improper service strategies. At its heart, a queue is about the balance between supply and demand: supply of service, and demand for it from visitors.

Queues happen when there’s an imbalance in this structure. True, a long queue may indicate growing demand, but unless your name is Tim Cook or you get this situation fixed ASAP, you won’t be getting the same demand any time soon.

Customers are growing pickier by the day, and all it takes is one unpleasant experience to reserve you a place in their black book.

Worse yet, they will then tell upwards of 12 other people to ignore your business.

In other words, if you wish to emulate Apple’s success, there are better ways to do so.

Myth #2: Queues sort themselves out

This one is the crux of Qminder’s entire existence.

Throughout the years, we’ve seen many people who were sure that queues don’t require special attention. “Well, okay, customer service can get a bit slow at times, but it’s nothing disastrous.”

Not yet.

We’ve already mentioned how queues are a symptom of something bigger, systemic.

The word “symptom” is not incidental. To continue with this analogy, would you ignore pain, hoping it will go away on its own, or would you get it looked at by a doctor?

The same applies to business success: it’s all about continual maintenance.

Engineering the right software to fix queues isn’t a sign of solutionism (“do we really need technology to manage something as mundane as customer lines?”), it’s a vital part of modern service.

From government offices to retail stores to schools to hospitals, any organization that gets more than one visitor at a time needs someone or something to manage its lines.

Why, in Ghana voters called for military intervention to help with queue management.

Now, if a problem requires military action, that’s not a problem that goes away on its own. But if you ask me, a queue management system is slightly preferable to military intervention.

Myth #3: More service agents equals faster service

This looks like simple math at first: if two servers can serve 10 customers an hour, four servers should be able to serve 20 customers an hour, right?

Twice the servers, double the speed.

star wars count dooku meme

(Sorry, but we had to make that.)

In any case, the simple math is not so simple, after all.

Server efficiency can be improved by dedicating more resources to it; however, the resources must be allocated to different parts of service.

For example: adding a grocery bagger at each cashier station greatly increases the flow of customers in a supermarket. But adding an additional grocery bagger — or an additional cashier — to the same station only hinders the speed.

Too many cooks spoil the broth.

What could further improve the efficiency in this case would be scanners and self-service kiosks. This way, a portion of customers could go through the system at a quicker rate, resulting in a speedy checkout for all.

And this is exactly what good queue management does: it helps to fragment and categorize different aspects of service into specific lines and take the load off of your agents by letting customers self-check in.

Myth #4: Queue management is when customers get numbered tickets

While, on the surface, numbered tickets get the job done — there is a sequential order to the customer flow now, which they can look at on the screen — they also present new, more nuanced problems.

We’re not going to touch smaller problems that plague queue tickets, such as the possibility of running out of paper at a critical moment, or even using paper at all.

Most importantly, take-a-number systems are incredibly impersonal.

Ticket-based queue management tends to alienate customers, who feel as if they are interacting with robots rather than people.

What doesn’t help is that tickets assign a number to each visitor. Unlike a name-based approach used in digital queuing solutions, this erects a wall between a server and a customer.

There have been scientific studies which confirm that hearing your own name activates your brain. Think of all the times your ears perked up when you heard (or thought you heard) someone say your name.

What’s more, even in a vegetative state, people tend to exhibit a similar reaction!

So in short, there is power to using customer names which take-a-number systems fail to capitalize on.

Myth #5: Sign-in sheets are an effective way of checking in

Despite the advancements that mankind has made with regards to digital queue management, there are still many companies and organizations that prefer checking visitors in via sign-in sheets.

The thing is, sign-in sheets were an effective tool — several decades ago or so.

Nowadays, there are faster, more efficient and, most importantly, secure ways of signing in. The solution

For one, handwriting can be illegible, which translates into a lot of time wasted on trying to decipher the information.

Secondly, paper trail is important for election audits; in other places, adding to already-enormous global paper waste is criminal.

Thirdly, analogue sign-in sheets can be stolen and taken advantage of. This is especially disastrous for healthcare, where HIPAA compliance is a huge sticking point.

While, to an extent, the same is applicable to digital records — cybertheft is a thing, after all — it’s infinitely easier to ensure the privacy of data.

Myth #6: Queue management is only for healthcare and public sector

It’s not hard to understand why retail and healthcare care about wait times and such — for the former, it’s about efficiency and revenue; for the latter, it’s about life and death.

But why is there such a strong belief that no other industries require queue management?

It’s true that government offices, for example, are not as consumer-driven and do not rely on some customer service benchmarks. But they still do care about efficiency.

Getting through customers — or citizens — in as little time as possible is the shared goal. In turn, this helps reduce the number of complaints and, perhaps more importantly for the public sector, cut down on operational costs.

Banks, passport centers, post offices, fast food restaurants — they are all united in their wish to do their job quickly. And one of the more essential ways of delivering fast service is definitely through effective queue management.


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