You know it, I know it, we all know it: Waiting in line is so 2019.
COVID has changed a lot of things. Not just about how we work, how we travel, and how we go to the grocery store - but also about how we expect to interact with other humans in any setting. Going out in public is suddenly full of potential pitfalls, because what used to be normal - a handshake, a hug - is now a point of uncertainty.
Plus, there is the danger of accidentally violating someone else’s comfort levels without even meaning to. The other day, while standing in line to board a plane, the person in front of me turned and said, “Excuse me, do you mind taking a few steps back?” I was already several steps back, dear reader! But I know that everyone is still figuring it all out. So, I hurriedly apologized to the plane stranger, and backed up even more.
Which brings me back to my original point: Waiting in line is so 2019! Actually, let’s be honest - even in 2019, before a global pandemic, no one was particularly wild about waiting in line. Need proof of that? Here are some fun facts you should know. (Spoiler: They’re all about how nobody likes waiting in line!)
70% of queuers would be less likely to return to an organization if they had experienced long wait times.
In a global pandemic, when plane strangers are asking you to please back up a few steps (again, plane stranger, my apologies), and with the Delta variant making it clear that COVID isn’t going away anytime soon - it’s time we all came together as a planet and agreed: Lines are dumb.
And that is why virtual queues are the direction in which we need to go. (What’s a virtual queue, you ask? We’ve got a blog on that.)
Virtual queues are not new, but their applications have been fairly targeted up to this point. You might be familiar with them from going in person to telecommunications stores, waiting to be served at the post office, or watching the board for your number at the department of motor vehicles. But the concept of being in line without actually physically waiting in line - actually, a much more modern version of this concept! - can be applied in more than these settings, and is especially appropriate when someone is waiting for personalized 1:1 service.
My favorite example of where virtual queues should be more prevalent is in banks, credit unions, and building societies. My bank offers appointments - something new since COVID! - and that made me a happy customer. Having the option to book an appointment gives me the opportunity to plan my time more effectively - instead of estimating how long a bank visit might take (“Be back in 20 minutes...maybe 40 minutes...could be an hour?”), I know exactly when I am going to arrive and that I will be served immediately. Huge improvement in customer experience.
But though I loved the appointments experience, I also found that, sometimes, I hadn’t had the foresight to make one - usually because I had just decided to pop in while I was out running errands. But when “popping in” is actually more like “standing in line outside” (thanks, Delta variant…), I’m a whole lot less likely to go through with it. Banks, credit unions, and building societies (because the UK hates queuing too), I implore you: Why not enhance this customer experience by transforming a line into a virtual queue?
In other words, instead of having to go inside, tell the person what I need help with - “I got a call about possible fraud,” “I need to ask a question about my mortgage,” “There’s a charge on my card that’s wrong” - etc., and then wait outside in line (with, ahem, subjectively-appropriate space between you and the person behind you or in front of you), a virtual queue would allow me to get a wait time estimate and then regular updates via SMS, so that I can go off and run the rest of my errands. Not only can I accomplish things while “waiting” - I also am more likely to be warm, dry, and safe. (Still not convinced? Maybe you also want to check out this blog about how to reduce queues in banks.)