Government offices are synonymous with long wait times. There are numerous cities where DMV wait times stretch past an hour on average, for example. The reason for these intimidating wait times is simple — up until recently, everyone needed to go to these offices in person to get anything done. Permits, license renewals — you name it. Also until recently, the “take a number” system was as advanced as things got when it comes to queue management. When you have a high demand for in-person service, a limited supply of available employees to meet that demand, and an antiquated system for managing wait times, the results are inevitable and interminable.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it’s no bold statement to say that long wait times should be a thing of the past altogether. Here are three simple ways your office can reduce wait time, and leave long waits behind.
1. Expand online offerings
Since everyone just spent the past year and a half figuring out how to implement social distancing into their regular routines, it’s likely your office has added to the number of services now available for customers online. But there’s a disturbing trend where we’re seeing some businesses and government agencies start to scale back these offerings as vaccines end the need for strict social distancing practices. Let’s be clear about this: taking away online service options is one of the absolute worst things you can do for yourself and your customers.
Instead, your office should look for even more ways customers can serve themselves online. Every online transaction is one less person waiting in your office, one less interaction your representatives have to have, and one more person served without taking up a moment of your time or any of your resources. That’s why expanding your online offerings is essential to reducing your in-person wait times.
2. Get smart about scheduling
Two people walk into your office. One of them has already filled out the form they need to submit, brought with them all the supplemental materials they need to present, and only needs about 15 minutes of your time to get everything squared away. The other isn’t quite sure what they need to do and is hoping that you can help them find and fill out all of the appropriate paperwork. If it takes them less than an hour, they’ll be happily surprised.
Under a traditional “take a number” system, there’s no way to prioritize customers in this scenario. It’s literally up to the luck of the draw whether or not our well-prepared customer has to sit and wait while a clerk helps the other person through all their issues first. But with a smart approach to scheduling, you can create different queues for those who need additional help and those who expect to be in and out.
That’s just one benefit of queue management software. It also makes self-scheduling appointments easy, sends automated reminders to help reduce no-shows, wait times, and more.
3. Be upfront about wait times
No matter how efficient you get, you’re never going to get rid of lines completely. So don’t hide your wait times from customers. Let them know what to expect by displaying current wait times in your lobby. Again, smart scheduling software can help with this, automatically calculating wait times and feeding them to an electronic display.
Displaying wait times helps more than you might think. First, it gives those waiting in line a point of reference. This helps reduce anxiety and frustration surrounding wait time and cuts down on the number of people interrupting your employees to ask how much longer they’re going to be. But it also results in a number of people seeing a wait time that’s longer than they want and turning around to come back later. This helps moderate the flow of traffic, as they’re not adding to the backlog at the time.
All of these changes are simple enough to make but deliver big results. They’ll help your office operate more efficiently and process more people each day, without resorting to employees working overtime to clear through crowded lobbies. As society reemerges from its long break of in-person activities, people will be excited to be in crowds again. Just not waiting in line.