Quality Progress - July 2016 - (Page 12)

KEEPINGCURRE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE Queue Quandaries M Customer-experience implications when lines get too long and hamper business Most of the time, people don't like waiting in lines. Whether stagnant at supermarket check-outs, halted at highway on-ramps nies needed to provide service to keep queues moving.3 In most settings where businesses serve large volumes of cus- during rush hour or-as thousands of U.S. air travelers recently ex- tomers in person, much comes down to the type of line businesses perienced-stalled at airport security screening checkpoints, long organize to maintain order and move the service process forward: lines are usually stressful and aggravating if you have places to go, several parallel lines for customers to choose from or one long, people to meet and work to do. serpentine line that everyone waits in. Americans spend about 37 billion hours each year waiting in The systems each have advantages and disadvantages. Multiple lines. Some spend the equivalent of a year or two of their lives parallel lines require more employees to handle customers. Serpen- waiting in lines, other research suggests.2 tine lines require more floor space where the line can form, mean- 1 Is there anything that can be done to address this very real customer-experience issue, which can-to name a few concerns- ing it doesn't work in all business designs.4 Essentially, if both systems work efficiently, the mean wait time damage an organization's reputation, hurt individual and group is about the same. However, Richard Larson, a professor who stud- productivity, and harm customer retention efforts? ies queuing theory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology For the airlines and airports dealing with a crush of travelers in Cambridge, and other queue researchers argue that the single, and a shortage of U.S. Transportation and Security Administration serpentine line has a more important advantage: It seems socially (TSA) workers, a slew of solutions have been suggested: waiving fairer because customers who arrive first are always served first.5 checked-bag fees so screeners don't need to peruse as many carry-on items; lowering the enrollment cost for precheck programs to Managing customer expectations divert more travelers through these shorter lines; deploying more Aside from line logistics, handling what goes on inside the minds dogs to assist in screening; and getting airlines to help with work of waiting customers can have a huge impact on how the custom- not directly related to security, such as moving bins to speed TSA ers perceive wait times and react to what's happening-or not checks of carry-on items. happening. For other organizations, however, most queue quandaries come Enter $52 billion entertainment giant Walt Disney Corp., which down to reorganizing and instituting better line systems and struc- operates eight theme parks around the world that attract millions tures, managing customer expectations, and understanding the of visitors each year. Disney knows how to handle crowds and has science and psychology of lines and wait times. designed queues that are entertaining and create anticipation for rides-keeping most people from constantly checking the clock. Organization and structure "In my book, they're No. 1 in the psychology and in the phys- In the early 20th century, A.K. Erlang, a Danish engineer, developed ics of queues," said Larson, who is also known in some circles as the first mathematical models of how lines worked to help a phone "Dr. Queue." Disney designs lines so successfully that parents with company figure out how many phone lines and operators the central young children can happily stand in line for an hour for a four-min- switchboard needed to ute ride-a pretty remark- keep customers from wait- able feat, Larson said. The ing too long. Erlang used capacity of the line and probability and statistics the ride, too, are carefully to model how bottlenecks calculated to balance cus- form as customers arrive, tomer satisfaction with and how quickly compa- profits.6 12 QP * www.qualityprogress.com http://www.qualityprogress.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Quality Progress - July 2016

Up Front
LogOn
Expert Answers
Keeping Current
Mr. Pareto Head
A Quick Study
Clear Pathway
Pulling It All Together
Dead or Alive
Innovation Imperative
Measure for Measure
Quality in the First Person
Career Corner
Standards Outlook
ASQ's Continuing Education and Profesional Development Directory
QP Toolbox
QP Reviews
One Good Idea
Back to Basics

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