What Is a Virtual Queue System and How Does It Work?
Introduction To Virtual Queue Systems
Technology has innovated human beings out of so many of our longest-standing problems. We have cured diseases through innovative vaccines, connected people worldwide through communication devices, and made purchasing groceries for the week from your couch a possibility. Technology has solved so many problems and innovated around so many issues. Yet, many enterprises are unaware that one of the biggest consumer problems in history has been solved through technology: long physical queues. A virtual queue system is now the technological solution to solving that common roadblock.
Waiting in lineups has been something customers have hated for millennia. From the first popular market stall that caused long lineups in ancient cities all the way to modern healthcare, retail, and education lineups, queues have been driving customers crazy for ages. Lineups disrupt customer flow, cause frustration and stress, and are often a source of bitterness for many consumers.
Long lines destroy the customer experience, and research shows that long lines decrease both businesses’ revenues and customer satisfaction scores.
After thousands of years where long lineups seemed unavoidable for enterprises where demand exceeds the ability to provide supply, technology has arrived that gives businesses a tool for solving this problem. This technology is known as virtual queue software. A virtual queue is a customer journey management solution that lets businesses digitally alter their lineups. This technology also allows them to control the whole process from end to end. It also allows customers to wait to receive products and services on their phones rather than in long, arduous lineups.
Like all major innovations, there is a lot to know about virtual queue technology. Virtual queuing systems open up many exciting possibilities for businesses that can improve queuing processes while providing more transparent, personalized experiences. It is a game-changing solution to a long-standing problem, and industry leaders like QLess have managed to offer a scalable virtual queue solution that is impactful across industries. Let’s do a deep dive into virtual queue technology and how exactly this impactful solution works.
Moving the Lineup to Digital Devices
Consumers do everything on their devices. Cell phones are ubiquitous now, with Oberlo indicating that there are 6.8 billion global smartphone users, with the number climbing yearly. Your customers do everything from their devices. They work, communicate, watch entertainment, and shop online from their phones, tablets, laptops, and computers. So if your customers have the tech-savviness and interest to do so many different things through digital mediums, why shouldn’t they be able to wait in line? This is the concept behind a virtual queue.
Simply put, a virtual queue is a lineup moved to a phone, laptop, desktop, tablet, or on-site kiosk. Virtual queuing solutions allow customers to enter lineups digitally. They are moved through the lineup according to when they entered, the appointment they booked, and staff availability. It functions very similarly to a real line but with the added benefits that virtual technology provides. That means there is increased visibility for staff. They can see who is in line and for what, and increased speed and enjoyment for customers, as they only have to enter the line virtually, not physically.
Virtual queue technology can be used almost everywhere physical lines are. These solutions have become incredibly popular in retail businesses, restaurants, doctors’ offices, higher education institutions, theme park attractions, and more. Consumers love using technology in their shopping experience, with Harvard Business Review indicating that just under 73% of consumers prefer shopping through multiple channels, meaning both physical and virtual channels.
Virtual queues often use artificial intelligence technology to digitally manage the queue. Configured company policies can be inputted into the system and the virtual queue system does the rest. Companies can:
- Blend walk-ins with scheduled appointments
- Have a set amount of time customers can be late
- Assign certain appointments to different employees
Queue management software is moving lines to mobile devices, which has several key benefits for businesses and their customers.
Remote Check-In with Accurate Wait Times
If you ask the typical customer what their ideal waiting experience looks like, most will describe it as short and easy. The happiest your customers could be would be if there were no waits at all required from them. While this may be quite impossible, given that some waiting is inevitable for any business with significant customer traffic, virtual queues help transform the wait, so it feels like no time at all. With remote check-in technology and precise, real-time wait time projections, the waiting experience for customers is radically improved.
The virtual queue system of software like QLess makes it so customers don’t have to spend time standing in line. When they schedule an appointment, they leave contact information or are sent a link. Then, when it is time for their appointment to begin, customers are either sent the link or click on it and can access the virtual queue. Once customers are ready for their appointment, they can check in to the virtual line. They will then see how long the line will take, with highly accurate forecasted waiting times. When they turn at the front of the virtual queue, customers can enter the lineup and receive service immediately.
This technology offers something customers will love. They have no patience for physical queues and waiting rooms. Customers appreciate knowing exactly how long the wait is supposed to take.
According to a QLess study of 250 US consumers, 57.2% of respondents indicated that they are more likely to frequent a business if they have early insight into wait times. In a separate QLess survey, 59.4% of respondents said they associate congested waiting rooms and physical queues with unsafe conditions.
For customers, the ability to check into a line without the need for their physical presence will transform the waiting experience. Standing in a long line is a frustrating and agitating experience. This is largely due to the uncertainty that comes with a wait. With QLess, the need to stand in line or sit in the waiting room is eliminated. Wait times have a clear end, and customers can spend their wait anywhere they choose.
Flexible Virtual Queue Management Features for Staff
Physical lineups are difficult to control. Getting a large group of strangers to act in a manner enterprises want is hard. Human error is a big reason long lineups are so common. When there are disruptions in physical queues, recovering is not easy. Customers get flustered, staff have difficulty controlling the situation, and things spiral. But as we’ve mentioned, virtual queue management systems have moved the lineup to consumers’ and staff’s mobile devices. This gives staff elevated lineup control and makes recovering from key bottlenecks much easier. And with flexible queue management features, controlling customer flow is drastically simplified.
Queue management systems enable staff to manage the wait from start to finish or automate the process using smart calendar software.
With QLess software, when customers create their appointments, it is uploaded to the smart calendar. Unlike legacy queuing systems, these appointments are not rigid. Both staff and customers can control them. Staff can edit the appointment, add required information, and be moved around. If a customer sends a message to staff that they are likely to be late, staff can move them out of the line until they arrive. Customers can easily cancel or reschedule appointments through the system.
Smart queue calendar management helps reduce wait times, which will lead to more loyal customers for businesses. Unlike physical lineups, when a customer is late for an appointment or doesn’t show up, virtual queue software makes it simple for enterprises to move on without delay. Staff can see every customer in line and have a calendar showing the entire day’s appointment schedule. Moving customers around is as easy as sending a digital message. This system ensures that there are no bottlenecks caused by easily solvable issues.
Virtual queue software like QLess empowers employees to have a higher level of control over the lineup process. QLess has been found to elevate staff productivity by up to 90%, providing easy-to-use tools for managing the flow of customers.
Communication Tools to Ensure Engagement
One of the most significant problems many businesses deal with is a lack of customer engagement. If customers are disengaged, customer loyalty rates will decrease, cutting into the bottom line. But maintaining customer engagement requires significant communication outreach, which can be difficult to provide at scale. When the entirety of your customer journey is physical, meeting customers’ communication needs is made incredibly hard. It’s also very demanding and stressful for customer service staff. But virtual queue software like QLess offers communication features that make connecting to customers and maintaining engagement much easier.
According to McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized experiences, and 76% feel frustrated when this doesn’t happen.
QLess’s communication features allow enterprises to meet the personalization needs of their customer base without a substantial time or resource investment. Great customer service depends on offering personalized, communicative experiences to consumers. Virtual queue software allows enterprises to provide this at a significant scale.
The QLess communication features have several different solutions designed to help enterprises engage with customers. There is a straightforward bi-directional chat option where customers and companies can message each other back and forth. Organizations can ask for details before an appointment begins or update customers on why the line is delayed. Customers can update staff if they are running late or seek additional information from the organization. Enterprises can automate these messages, sending them to an entire lineup or day’s-worth of customers at a specific time, so they also serve as valuable appointment reminders.
No one wants to feel like a number when they enter a business. But, it can also be difficult to offer customers that personal feeling without the right solutions in place. Virtual queue system technology opens the doors to a better, more communicative customer experience. The more companies engage with their consumers, the happier they are.
Virtual Queues Designed for the Customer Experience
We’ve briefly discussed how virtual queue software can improve a business’s customer flow. With smoother, friction-free access to a company’s services, customers are significantly more likely to leave their experience happy. And ultimately, that is what an online queue management system is intended to do. These software solutions are designed for the customer experience. It enables consumers to have a more enjoyable wait with faster service times and more communication and transparency every step of the way. This improvement will yield a significant positive impact on an enterprise’s bottom line.
The customer experience is a defining part of business success, and consumer expectations are only growing. According to data from Insider Intelligence, in 2020, 80% of consumers stated that the experience a company provides is just as important as the product or service they offer. By 2022, that number had reached 88%. There is a significant focus the average customer has on a positive experience. Meeting their needs is just as essential as offering high-quality products or services.
If you can offer improved experiences to your customers, you will be rewarded. According to Forbes, customer-centric companies are more profitable than companies that are not as focused on the needs of their consumers. If you build your business model around offering excellent customer experiences, they will likely continue frequenting your business. Customer retention is a core part of business growth. Establishing those loyal customers is done by offering smooth service and fostering a connection. Virtual queue software makes this something any appointment-based business can do.
Virtual queues take away one of the biggest customer complaints there is.
According to a QLess survey, 68.9% of customers would patronize a competitor’s business if it had noticeably shorter lines.
With virtual queue systems, long physical waits are a thing of the past. Enterprises can empower customers to wait from wherever they choose while offering better communication and speed. It all translates to a better customer waiting process and an improved overall experience.
Data Collection Tools for Insights Into the Queuing Process
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your enterprise is a pivotal part of the growth process for businesses. That is why companies worldwide invest billions into data collection every year.
According to Finances Online, 64% of enterprises that use data believe it increases productivity and efficiency.
Business intelligence helps companies with objective insights into what they are doing well and what they need to change. With virtual queuing technology, enterprises can collect data on one of the things they wouldn’t have been able to before: their queuing process.
A virtual queue management solution moves the waiting process to digital, which means it can be virtually tracked and measured. QLess has business intelligence features that allow companies to glean data on their waiting process, providing helpful data on customer flow and the customer journey. QLess collects data on useful metrics like the median wait time, the number of customers served in a day, appointment no-show percentage, employee utilization, and more. These insights paint a clear picture for enterprises that want to better understand the efficiency of their appointment calendar.
With data from a virtual queue, enterprises can make necessary tweaks to their operation. The QLess data can be segmented and filtered according to different criteria and is displayed in charts and graphs. This makes spotting trends simple for enterprises and offers an easy showcase of where things might go wrong. If businesses see that customer wait times are reaching unacceptable levels during certain hours of the day, they know they need to improve staff efficiency at that time. They can add extra staff during peak hours or move employee shifts around. Accessing that data is an important step in making changes to improve previously unknown issues.
Knowing why you might have frustrated customers is made easy with data from virtual queue software. Data helps provide a better understanding of customers. With business intelligence from QLess, enterprises have more substantial knowledge of what might be causing bottlenecks in the customer journey.
Accessibility Features and Ease-of-Use
Enterprises considering implementing queue management tools into their customer journey will likely have concerns. It can seem like a major transition to overhaul your lineup process and insert digital technology into the equation. But the reality of a queue line management system is that it doesn’t make things harder for customers; it makes them easier. Virtual queue software is easy-to-use and accessible, with features designed to ensure it meets the needs of all customers.
There are 61 million adults in the US living with a disability, according to data from the CDC. This includes a huge number of people dealing with visibility and hearing disabilities that enterprises might worry would inhibit them from using virtual queue technology. However, this is not the case for the most part. QLess includes accessibility features that will make it easy for customers of all kinds to use. These features include text-to-speech readers, dyslexia-friendly font options, text size adjustments, helpful user tooltips that offer information to users, and more. These features are designed to ensure that all customers benefit from the technology.
For enterprises worried that customers will struggle to adopt this new technology, that belief has not been borne out by the market. Virtual queues have been adopted in places ranging from Disney World and UCLA Health Centers to Texas A&M and retailers worldwide. Customers don’t have the technical issues that some enterprises presume they will because the average customer spends substantial amounts of time using mobile apps and other virtual technologies similar to virtual queues. The average American spends more than 7 hours every day on screens; it shouldn’t come as a shock to organizations that they can handle virtual queue technology. And with QLess’s easy-to-use features, it is a straightforward tool that connects with the needs of many different users.
Applications for a Broad Range of Industries
The impact of virtual queue technology is not limited to one industry or company. Long physical queues are a problem in many different sectors, and these solutions can impact anywhere where lines are an issue. Many virtual queue software like QLess has additional industry-specific features designed to make transitioning to a virtual queue easier for different sectors.
For example, QLess has .gov integration that makes embedding the QLess technology into a government website possible. That means when customers want to join a virtual queue for the DMV office or passport renewals, they can do so directly from the website. QLess also has API integration, which allows companies with substantial tech stacks to implement QLess without needing to trim their tech stack. QLess can integrate with Zoom and Microsoft Teams, so organizations can run virtual appointments, and it has industry-specific features for education, retail, logistics, and more.
Virtual queue technology is a game changer with limitless potential in several key industries. A virtual queue management system is a viable solution wherever lineups are a problem.
Key Takeaways on Virtual Queue Systems
Long lineups have been causing customer frustration dating back millennia. It is a problem that has been embedded in commerce since the earliest days of civilization, one centuries of changes and cultural shifts haven’t been able to solve. However, we have finally arrived at a time when technology has evolved to the point that it can eliminate the issue of extended physical queues. With the invention of virtual queue solutions, the future of waiting in lines will look very different from the past.
Queue management software allows for the creation of digital queues that customers enter remotely, through their mobile phones, on-site kiosks, or computers. These virtual queues move along as customers receive the service they are in line for, and customers get real-time updates on their status in the line. They don’t have to be physically present in the line until the very end and can message back and forth with staff for a more personalized process. Staff can control the lines digitally, allowing them to manage the line and improve customer flow.
Virtual queues are a modern solution to a long-standing issue, a technological innovation freeing consumers from one of their most common complaints. With companies like QLess offering innovative virtual queue solutions, enterprises can implement software that transforms their queue process forever.