If you had 23 seconds right now and want to…
You are at a branch with three ATM machines. Let’s assume there are a bunch of people waiting in line, with person ‘A’ using the first ATM, person ‘B’ using the second ATM, and person ‘C’ using the third ATM. D lines up behind A, E lines up behind B, F lines up behind C. You are person G. If you had to make a guess, you’d probably line up for the first ATM machine, since you would assume that the first person to arrive would be the first to leave, the second to arrive would be the second to leave, and so forth.
As you have guessed, A is the first one to leave the ATM machine, then B then C. You become giddy as you are about to withdraw cash from your recent pay day. You wait and wait and unfortunately D is taking a long time, in fact so long that other people that came before you are already finished with their ATM services. What’s taking so long? Apparently person ‘D’ had a lot of bill payments to make, and he’s clumsy with the numpad. Your giddiness becomes frustration, and you blame the company even though you know it’s not their fault. This does not matter though as the company’s reputation has become diminished in your eyes.
Are you that company? What kind of queuing system are you using? Many places have unorganized queues where people have to guess which line would be the fastest. People aren’t born to be very patient, and as a professional business you must ensure your customers get their services done before their patience becomes tested. This could potentially lead them in a bad mood, causing more problems later and perhaps a dent to your company’s reputation.
A smarter system would be to create a line behind the people using the ATM machines. For example, everyone is queued in order of first come first served. A uses first ATM machine, B uses second ATM machine, and C uses third ATM machine. When A is finished, D uses the first; when B is finished, E uses the second; when C is finished, F uses the third. Person G, which is us, is queued in line for all of the ATM machines rather than just a single one. Therefore, when for instance F is finished earlier than D and E, we would be using the third ATM machine right away instead of having to make guesses.
Many places, especially those that are more time consuming and require more personal assistance, have adopted smarter queuing systems. Some are even more sophisticated and flexible by assigning queues based on people’s needs. A postal office may split two counters between those who are just mailing an envelope and those who are mailing parcels, but are prepared to accept people from other lines when their counter becomes empty. However, it doesn’t mean we slack off in other areas of our business. I addressed the example of ATM machines because it seems to be one area where they can also adopt this queuing optimization.
Do you have a business that can adopt this queuing system? What kind of business is it? What kind of problems do you think you will solve by adopting this method?