An IE in the Middle East: Beat the Queue!

By Fernando LamelasImageWho has not been to a theme park or a bank and waited in queue to go on their favorite ride or make a check deposit? Certainly, most of us have experienced one of these situations and felt frustration, as waiting is boring and takes away valuable time from our already hectic schedules. As stated in a CNN article by A. Pawlowski back in November 2008, waiting in line has been a subject carefully studied by experts in the field of queue psychology for several decades. In his article, the author quotes some basic principles of queuing psychology from David H. Maister’s, “The Psychology of Waiting Lines” that I found very interesting and would like to bring to your attention:

  • Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time
  • People want to get started
  • Anxiety makes waits seem longer
  • Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits
  • Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits
  • The more valuable the service, the more the customer will wait
  • Solo waits feel longer than group waits

ImageTo overcome this anxiety, boredom and frustration often experienced, several approaches exist. At the heart of successful queue management is perhaps Disney, who through its theme parks has mastered long waits through the introduction first of FASTPASS in late 1999 and more recently with first scenes, where interactive elements are added to the queue to entertain Guests while they wait in line. But while FASTPASS is appropriate for a theme park setting where Guests spend several hours and are likely willing to come back (at the end you are paying a ticket to experience as many rides as possible), this concept may not be 100% applicable in a bank or a fast food restaurant where you would most likely opt to another branch or food choice. Instead, lobby tracking or teller management systems exist to give people a sense of wait time, help businesses collect valuable data to deploy additional resources during peak hours and help improve customer service. For this, a user usually walks into the location, selects a service from a coupon dispenser and waits in a “lobby” for his or her turn.

While the approach described above adds structure to the queue and allows people to sit down while they wait, the evolution of mobile apps has taken this concept one step further by allowing a person to “enter the queue” from a mobile phone while still at home or in transit. Such is the case of eCoupon, a service provided by the Emirates Group to help employees minimize the time they spend waiting and decrease congestion in its Employee Service Center.

I first experienced eCoupon a few months back while I was still in process of completing some of my initial paperwork. I heard about it through the company’s intranet and decided I would give it a try the next time I needed any service provided by the center. One day while riding the metro on my way to work, I opened the mobile app and proceeded to “request a service”. The services offered were various and a number next to each option provided a count of how many people were waiting in line ahead of me. A double click offered some more statistics like average service time and total number of people served. Once I selected the service of my choice, an eCoupon number was generated and voila! While this was already a great advancement when compared to current teller (queue) systems, one additional touch point enhanced the user experience even further. This consisted on a text message or SMS to remind me that my turn was approaching and my number would be called shortly.

While some may argue that my time in the system or queue started way back when I was still in the metro and requested the service through the mobile app, the truth is that the physical time I spent in the process (queue and service completion) was a mere 5 minutes. eCoupon is just one of several examples that I look forward to address in future posts regards the UAE’s progress in adopting electronic and mobile solutions. I hope that in the near future more and more service companies adopt this kind of technology as a norm to enhance the user experience, improve their service levels and minimize wait times.

ImageIn case you miss last month’s blog, see below a link to August’s post: An IE in the Middle East: Dubai International Airports

Fernando Lamelas is a Resource Planning Manager for dnata, the air services company of the Emirates Group and currently lives in Dubai, UAE. Prior to his current role, Fernando worked for other Fortune 500 companies including Disney, General Electric and CEMEX. He holds a BS from Tecnológico de Monterrey and a MS from the University of Florida, both in Industrial Engineering. He is passionate about travelling, sports, diversity in the workplace, personal development and volunteerism.