update queuing strategy

3 Signs You Need to Update Your Queuing Strategy

(Note: the above image does not even remotely resemble our product.)

Happy queues make happy customers. The thing is, happy queues can’t stay happy all the time. For that, your queuing strategy needs constant updates.

But how can you tell when it’s time to update your queuing strategy? What data should you be looking at?

Customer Churn: What It Is And Why It Matters

First things first. Before we begin with our list, fair warning — customer churn rate is our key-metric for the day.

The term refers to the point at which a customer stops giving their business to a company. Imagine your average Joe deciding to never again shop at your average store because the checkout line refuses to budge.

That’s customer churn.

Measuring customer churn rate is the first step in recognizing your customer queuing system needs an overhaul. It is key to long-term success.

As the Harvard Business Review puts it:

“Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”

And rectifying the parts of a business that frustrate customers can yield huge gains. Just a 5% increase in the customers who return to a store can produce more than a 25% increase in profit.

Companies that provide excellent service lead customers to spend up to 9% more. As a customer, don’t you prefer to shop at stores you know are reliable, dependable, and accessible?

The data says you likely do.

Now that we’ve got this figured out, time to get down to business — 3 signs it’s time to update your queuing strategy.

1. Poor Customer Flow And Customers Getting Lost

effects poor customer flow

The first step in seeing signs of customer churn is for businesses to understand their customer’s flow — the way they move through a store or office.

As always, an illustration best demonstrates the meaning of customer flow.

Let’s go to the doctor’s office.

We walk in the door and head to the counter, perhaps fill out some paperwork and then sit down. Our name is called and the doctor sees us, after which we return to the front-desk to make a payment or schedule a new appointment, and walk out the door.

Each of the aforementioned steps is a marker on the employee’s journey through the doctor’s office. To put it abstractly, the patient moves from point A, to B, to C, to D, etc.

We want customer experiences to be seamless as customers move effortlessly from point to point. But sometimes customer flow is snagged, and that leads to customer frustration. That’s a failure on the part of businesses in directing customer flow control.

In our doctor scenario, it’s possible that the customer is held up at point C, in which they wait for hours upon uncomfortable upholstery waiting to be served. Meanwhile, patients who arrived after them are seen before them.

Wouldn’t you be frustrated?

But, it’s not just medical practices that have to pay attention to customer flow.

Poor store layouts can be a source of embarrassing customer frustration, too.

They can cause customer congestion — something both annoying and dangerous. One 2008 Black Friday sale created chaos because a business didn’t consider the impact of the increased customer flow. It’s as if the levees broke and the store was flooded.

Or maybe customers simply don’t know where to go within a store. Their customer flow becomes a stagnant puddle, rather than a smooth river.

We don’t often consider the nuances of a business’ layout in instructing customers how to navigate, e.g. cashiers in the front, milk in the back, placards indicating where X, Y, and Z are shelved.

But design is often the first cause of customer churn. “I can’t find what I’m looking for” and “That place was too confusing” are telltale signs that your customer is going to take their business elsewhere.

Directing customers through design is a subtle art — the culmination of effective lighting, effective signs, organization, and enticing displays. And when confusion cannot be overcome by design, customers rely on employees to help guide them.

2. Employees Too Overwhelmed to Help

employee stress effects

Customer service should be any business’ number one priority, and great customer service is fostered by great employees. But between 65% and 75% of businesses overwhelm their employees, leading to workplace stress — and that galvanizes customer churn.

What’s the solution? Well, workplace stress is often a result of understaffing.

There exists a golden ratio for every business between the number of employees and the number of customers. It’s that harmony that means every customer’s needs are served, and no employee is stressed by serving customers.

In all likelihood, there is no perfect equation that gives us Y number of employees for X number of customers for every business. But it is still easy to envision scenarios in which understaffed employees succumb to workplace stress.

Imagine a single cashier at a grocery store — at peak hours — handling a single serpentine line. While the cashier serves one customer at a time, the customers are annoyed by the long waiting time and project their frustration on the employee.

The latter, in turn, returns the feeling back to the customers.

The outcome is an environment of workplace stress — a less effective employee and increased customer churn.

If a hypothetical store manager used analytics data to understand when peak hours occur, they could have scheduled an adequate number of employees to meet the customer’s needs.

Reducing customer frustration can’t occur until managers work to reduce workplace stress. Once employees needs are met, customer’s needs are met.

This gives management free rein to tackle the last major cause of customer churn — retail queue management.

3. Waiting Lines That Aren’t Worth Waiting For

long waiting lines

When customer’s faces turn beet-red while waiting in line, it might be time to re-strategize your customer queuing system. Frustrated customers will not be waiting for you to start pulling your weight.

And customer frustration has a tendency to pile up until it blows up in your face.

21% of patients at a university pharmacy decided to fill their prescriptions elsewhere due to the excruciating wait time. What signs could the pharmacy manager look for to determine why customers are leaving?

Here are a few line-related customer frustrations that often mean it’s time to head to the queue whiteboard.

  • Jockeying
    When customers jump ship from one line to the next, they are jockeying. Customers want to check out as soon as possible, and a customer queueing system utilizing multiple lines don’t foster a quick exit.

  • Balking
    When customers look at a line and think, “I am not waiting in that line, it’s too long!”, that’s called balking. Long story short, a long waiting time scares away customers. Keep in mind that time is one of the most valuable resources.

  • Reneging
    When customers are so frustrated with waiting in line that they throw their hands in the air and walk out the door, that’s called reneging. Another way to phrase it is “giving up.” Reneging points to a systematic error in a business’ retail queue management system.

Managers don’t need to actively monitor CCTV cameras or stalk the lines in their store to discover whether customers are frustrated with the customer queuing system. Instead, they need to utilize footfall analytics to accurately measure the level of customer frustration.

It also helps to make customer surveys available, either through the store or online. If your customers have concerns about long waiting times, give them channels to voice these concerns.


Recognizing the aspects of a store which can lead to customer churn is of the first importance for businesses — whether it be a design fault, workplace stress, or an unoptimized customer queueing system.

Once areas of improvement are identified, businesses can start working on updating their strategy and meeting the needs of their customers.

After all, happy queues make for happy customers, and happy customers make for a happy business.

Speaking of happy, we’re delighted to offer you a free 14-day access to Qminder. Take full advantage of our system to plan out your new queuing strategy.

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