Queuing Theory (CX)

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Did You Pick the Right Line (Queue) Last Time at the Store?

There have been numerous times I’ve been faced with a massively critical decision.

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Which line should I pick?

Waiting in the Wrong Line Unnecessarily?

As luck would have it – or lack thereof, I usually find myself in the “wrong” line. But why is this? Why do stores, agencies, and customer service desks insist on poorly designed lines?

Why Not Apply Queuing Theory?

I took an operations class during my MBA, and picked up on the concept of queuing theory. This wasn’t an advanced course, so I can’t imagine this is an uncommon concept – especially to those who must deliver operational efficiency in customer service.

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Often, what we find at customer service, grocery stores, or train stations is a choice left to the customer – which line to pick. In queuing theory, you establish a single line and operation efficiency dictates which window or checkout stand the next customer goes to.

Benefits of Queuing Theory to Customer Experience (CX)

I am just baffled at why this isn’t used regularly. It would increase customer satisfaction, shorten wait times, process transactions faster and the anger people associate with the queue would dissipate.

Grocery stores in the U.S. tend to keep separate check out stands because of the up-sell opportunity. Candy, magazines, etc. But I’ve also seen stores like TJ Maxx / TK Maxx or Fry’s Electronics make use of a single line and have many options for upselling – and actually have a lot more products to offer. Of course, grappling with real estate and maximizing the floor space may conflict with an efficient queue. Would they rather have shopping cart abandonment and angry customers or improved customer experience?

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The next time you are faced with a choice – at a grocery store, at a cash withdrawl (ATM) bank, Disneyland parking entrance, ticket kiosk in Victoria Station, or elsewhere – help me understand the logic.

Why are these organizations not looking at customer experience?

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Are we really that far from applying CX in the real world / retail space?

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