People renege on a deal, on a promise, and, yes, on their place in a queue. Your job is to figure out how to get them to stay put in line, happily complete their transaction, and gladly return again. Electronic queuing is relied upon to increase service efficiency, decrease wait time, and keep customers happily waiting. But before we get too far, let’s take a closer look at reneging and electronic queuing.

What exactly is reneging?

When the term reneging is used in the context of waiting in line, its definition is simple: A person who enters a queue, then leaves before reaching its end. Similarly, a person who opts not to enter the queue at all could also be accused of reneging, though “balking” is a more accurate term for this behavior. Regardless of the term you use it’s crucial to understand the psychology behind reneging and address it with smart queue management strategies.

electronic queuing systems

What is electronic queuing?

Electronic queuing systems, which include call-forward and virtual queuing systems, use technology to increase service efficiency by as much as 35%.  Call-forward systems use overhead LCD monitors to visually and audibly direct customers to the next available agent. Wireless remote controls, mounted at each register or service station, allow agents to instantly announce and display open checkout positions.

As the name suggests, virtual queuing eliminates the line altogether and allows customers to hold their place in the queue while relaxing or continuing to shop. Upon arrival, customers register at a kiosk for their desired service and receive a ticket that specifies their unique call number, the service for which they registered, and the estimated wait time.  Agents click a service button directly from their PC when available and customers are called to the service window via LCD displays placed around the queuing area. Some systems also allow customers to register and be called via mobile devices through texting and/or email.

How does electronic queuing help?

Electronic queuing is a shrewd solution to drive down reneging because it creates service efficiencies, optimizes customer throughput, and ultimately shortens average wait times. This translates to happier customers – and happy customers don’t generally leave a queue.

With electronic queuing, a customer who might normally consider themselves better off abandoning the line will be more inclined to stick around. Here’s why:

Fairness is automatic.

Waiting can easily turn into reneging if a customer believes that another person is “cutting in line,” other lines are moving faster, or other customers are receiving unfair preferential treatment. That’s because perceptions of social injustice – the belief that someone has unfairly gained an advantage in line — can lead to stress and irritation, naturally causing someone to renege. With electronic queuing, the first come, first served rule can be automatically enforced to create built-in fairness.

The cues are clear.

Electronic queuing increases service efficiency by almost 35 percent thanks to overhead LCD monitors and audible announcements alerting and directing customers to the next available agent. There’s no need to pay attention to surrounding lines in an effort to jump to another shorter, faster queue. People who are tempted to renege will be buoyed by the promise of their number being called, rather than sunken by the thought that they might miss an opportunity to get their business taken care of faster than someone else.

Service is made more efficient.

Electronic queuing increases service efficiency in two ways: by providing a visual alert to customers so they instantly know which service agent is available, and by effectively spreading out the workload among service agents or cashiers. For example, at an airport you can have as many as 20+ agents servicing a line at one time. The agents are spread out over 100-300 feet.  In normal practice, without electronic queuing, the agents closer to the head of the queue get the majority of the work, while service agents sitting on the peripherals go unnoticed.

With electronic queuing systems, not only are there announcements and LCD displays to notify the next customer in line of an available agent, but the service agent on the peripheral can push the “available agent” button while finishing up service with the last customer so that time is not wasted as the next customer begins his approach.  What’s more, electronic queuing systems track everything. And when service agents know they’re being tracked they tend to not waste time in between services, so even greater efficiency is achieved.

The end result? Greater service efficiency, faster lines, less reneging!

The wait is known.

One of the truths about queuing is that known wait times feel shorter than unknown waits. In other words, when people willingly enter a line where the wait is known to be 20 minutes, anxiety and endless anticipation over “how long will I be standing here?” is eliminated.

Offering expected wait times is where electronic queuing systems excel. When someone knows how long they’re going to wait and they’ve accepted it by entering the line, the chance of reneging is very small, unless of course, you fail to meet that promise. In virtual queuing, estimated wait times are easy to provide since customers check in upon arrival to the queue and wait times are calculated automatically based on number of agents, average service time, and number of people waiting. In a single line queue, this is also possible using advanced video analytics or simple estimations based on line length and service time. 

The entertainment factor.

If customers are distracted while they wait, preferably if they’re diverted by something that benefits or entertains them, customers will perceive a wait to be shorter. And we know that shorter waits make happier customers and happier customers tend not to renege. Entertaining and keeping people busy can happen through digital entertainment provided through the electronic queuing system.  Informational or promotional video or messaging can be displayed on the LCD monitors alongside or in between queuing prompts. This entertainment can effectively keep customers engaged, distracted, happy, and thinking about things other than how long they’re standing in line (and whether they should stand there any longer). 

The checkout line is where sales are often won and lost, and can significantly impact how a customer views your organization. Electronic queuing can give you the advantage when it comes to increasing the efficiency of the checkout queue, decreasing service times, and creating a more pleasant experience for all.