Queues are described as physical structure which helps to determine the how many different paths are available to a customer, the number of different services involved, and the services a customer should have as they consider to complete service.
In every activity customers at some point during their encounters are required to wait in a queue. Waiting is considered a natural part of many services we seek on a daily basis. For most customers, waiting is an annoyance depending on the size of the queue, with smaller queues being less annoying than long ones. For companies and other institutions that serve quite a large amount of customers the application of virtual queues has became a very innovative ways of making the wait invisible thus reducing their annoyance on the customers. Disney has become a leader in this queuing advancement. The system allows customers to participate in other activities as they wait for an appointed time at their desired activity.
Queuing was in the past a systems that was modeled and studied the means to minimize any negative aspects of service waits among the customers. Currently the improved technology has provided businesses with the ability to create and captured audiences through virtual queues. By co-branding their products companies have been able to effectively explore the opportunities that exist. In Disney’s, queuing advancement known as FASTPASS aimed at co-branding services and as a way of opportunities to increase sales volumes and profit margins.
The virtual-queue strategy emphasizes that guests can be let free from physical standing in line and placing in a virtual queue. Such queues eliminate the actuality and perception of waiting by allowing customers within the queue to engage in other productive and enjoyable activities until their time to be served has arrived (Russell & Taylor 1998).
Ideally, in the hospitality and service organizations it is important to for the organizations to identify the point that cause customers to queue as they wait to be served, in so doing they minimize both the costs of providing a service and the costs incurred by having customers to wait.
If this ideal situation were reached, the service providers would ensure that, no customer would ever have to wait for service, no capacity would ever sit idle, and the company would minimize its costs. Although, it is hard as service providers to make hard decisions so as to cost-effectively match their capacity to customer-arrival patterns. Because customers arrive at service operations in perfectly unpredictable patterns, thus queues are inevitable in service operations.
Types of queues.
Often queues are typically physical line of people standing in front of a server or some point waiting for service. But, a queue can be a collection of people sitting at computer terminals scattered all over the the country side waiting to dial-up a call, access the Internet provider. But these study is basically interested on the typical service queues, where customers arrive at a point of service and wait in line for the service to be delivered to them. Example of such queues may include; customers waiting for tables at a restaurant, guests waiting to be booked in a hotel, or guests waiting in line at the Disney World's Space Mountain.
In waits management two major customer issues are of great concern, namely, the amount of time people actually wait and how long they think they are waiting. In managing the actual time used in wait the main focus is usually focused on minimizing the sum of the costs of waiting and the cost of serving the customers by providing capacity. In obtaining the costs of waiting, one main point of focus is how the customer was frustrated by the wait, such can be through abandoning the wait and going for the same or similar service somewhere else, diminished customer satisfaction with no urge to return, and reduction in revenues. It is thus important to keep the wait as short as possible by; ensuring that the appropriate capacity has been provided for and that the customers will have a wait time that they will find reasonable and worthy waiting and the queues should be designed is designed in a way that allows customers go through the system in the most expeditious manner possible (Diaz & Ruiz, 2002).
Managing the perception of how long the wait feels by the customer and by how much they enjoy the wait feels is very important in a customer. This is achieved by focusing on ways that ensure that queues are designed to provide the customers with their psychological needs and expectations as they wait. To best meet the customers psychological needs it is important for that organizations manage both the customer’s actual wait and the perceived wait.
Managing Actual Customer Waits
Several strategies have been used to manage the actual wait times. They are usually quantitative models important in determining the optimal balance point between the costs of waiting and the actual costs of to provide service. Waiting line strategically designed to improve the flow of people in waiting situations. The approaches are often a means to manage the actual wait for customers as they seek certain services.
Some of the ways of managing customers wait include,
The method uses a number of quantitative and statistical models specifically designed to deal with a variety of queuing configurations. The models determines the optimal balance between the costs of waiting and the costs of capacity to provide service, the models allow an individual to describe the operating characteristics of a particular queue. It also allow for the examination of how any changes in the queue’s configuration will change the length of the wait. Managers applying this model start by gathering data that allows them to make predictions on: how many people are expected to arrive in a given time period and for a certain service, what sort of arrival pattern are they likely to use while arriving and the rate at which those customers can be served depending on the available capacity (Haksever, Render, Russell & Murdick 2000).
Most of the organizations make use the "design day" or "design period" concept to determine their level of capacity. The design day is better off because one will not design a system for maximum capacity because they may lack capacity which may be very costly and the facilities would be greatly be underused. To avoid this eventuality, the design days are usually in the range between the 60th and the 90th percentile day of the year.
For example, if one chooses to design for the 80th percentile day, this means that 20 percent of all days (or seventy-three days) would have higher demand than the design-day capacity, and service levels would be compromised on those seventy-three days. Selecting the design-day percentile forces managers to decide what is the acceptable percentage or number of days that they are willing to compromise service standards and, most likely, customer satisfaction. The design day usually anticipates the peak period, when capacity is completely utilized. Such peak times do not generally mean expanding the staff to ensure full satisfaction. For example, additional cars in a theater cannot instantly translate to more seats being added, or extra times should be made available for additional performances. In restaurants, a certain increase in the number of customers cannot directly mean that the number of seats or tables should be increased, however, the restaurant may open an outdoor seating area if the weather is good in an attempt to expand capacity during peak periods, but these extra settings should not be included in the design-day calculations.
To avoiding disappointment, Disney setup its design day at 80 to 90 percent of expected demand, although it may seem high, the standard was a reflection of a conscious decision to avoid disappointing its customers even during very busy days. The policy is a challenge for Disney's marketing department to come up with new creative ways of increasing attendance during the nonpeak periods of the year. This was to ensure that the available capacity is used as efficiently as possible.
Queuing Models and Queue Configurations
The complexity of the standard statistical models cannot be used to describe it. By using simulations it is possible to replicate the delivery system's operation and their characteristics. The simulations method has demonstrated that this configuration always results in much shorter customer wait times and less congestion compared to the than the traditional arrangement of parallel lines.
Interrelatedness of Multiple Queues
The method assumes that there are very many waits in an intertwined system which must be managed together as a single system. For example, if staff is shifted to manage the queue for a hotel's valet parking, then the front office desk wait may become a point of dissatisfaction to the customers. The Interrelatedness of Multiple Queues method of reducing resources and people at one and populating another to reduce the wait at one point in the service system only make another part of the system underserved thus increasing the wait time. An example was the unexpected results at Disneyland in the 1960s when shifting capacity to relieve one wait adversely affect another (Durand 1991).
Demand Shitting helps to manage the actual demand by helping find ways to shift it. An example of a demand-shifting strategy at Walt Disney World was tried to seek a better balance for the ever-growing number of visitors. By early 1990s, the number of on-property hotel rooms increased in the number of on-property guests, for $10, resort guest where allowed to stay in the parks for three hours and the number of tickets sold per night was limited to the number of guests rooms available to ensure that there would be no wait times. These customers had the option of using that time more productively during the day instead of wasting it standing in the long lines. They could visit the attractions at night without having to wait in line. The advantage was also extended to the rides because their wait time was reduced since the number of customers being served was reduced.
The reservation systems is a demand-shifting strategy that allows customers to decide whether the available time slots are compatible with their own demand patterns and from that choose whether to accept one of those slots or to reject it for another. The reservations method helps organizations to allocate their capacity as they schedule customers to exactly match available capacity, although the system is not perfect. The reservations system does not work perfectly as was the case in the mid-1990s, when some Disney leaders were disappointed with the long lines on the most popular attractions. To eliminate this effect they choose to create solutions to reducing wait times with one proposed solution being to implement a reservation system, though it did not work for theme park attractions because of the way the service is structured (Diaz & Ruiz, 2002). By reserving a restaurant or theater the customer pays for a discrete item that is bound to cause queues at other levels once inside. However, making a single payment for all services expected as a single pay-one-price theme park ensures. The guests pays admission price to enter the park and expect to have an equal opportunity to see all the attractions inside with the help of a single price. The negative implication of this problem is that the reservation system allows the early-arriving guests to book all the available capacity on the most popular attractions denying the rest that chance to enjoy equally.
Another problem of the reservation system happens when customers expect equal access to all phases of the service experience and which may not be possible to provide for. This causes frustration and may impact negatively on the number of customers visiting the hotel or park which results on the revenues. The reservation system limiting factor is that it only works well when there is a fixed and predictable capacity. That means the number of seats for example in a theater or a restaurant cannot be effectively used in a dynamic environment with changing demand and variable capacity.
The worst problem with reservation systems is that when guests fail to honor their reservations it affects the operation of the system greatly. It is for this reason why many restaurants choose not to take reservations because they end up inconveniencing others ready to occupy the rooms.
Strategies for Managing the Perception of Waiting
In order to manage the perception of waiting it is important to ensure that customers have something to do so as to occupy their waiting time. Waiting time will seem longer than usual if the customers have nothing to keep them, “unoccupied time always feels longer than occupied time”. The best way to occupy time is to provide for diversionary devices so as to counter the negative consequences of unoccupied time during a wait. Organizations should find ways to capture the attention of customers through entertaining, educating and as well as informing them. It is for this reason why hospitality and service organizations maximize on such simple tactics as placing mirrors near elevators in hotels to occupy waiting guests or providing recorded music or TV entertainment. At Disney a portable entertainment called Streetmosphere is rolled out to entertain guests waiting in particular long line where customers are expected to spend quite a longer time and may get dissatisfied. Providing the alternative methods is a form of illusion which improves their perception of wait time getting shorter (Metters etal 2006).
The customer’s state of mind influences how long the wait feels this is common when the nature of the experience the customer is waiting to have produces anxiety. The nature of service a customer expects creates or acts to reduce the anxiety and make the wait seem shorter. An example is a patients waiting in a doctor's office. Having no idea when wait will end and the service experience will commence the wait will seem longer than if they have a sense of the expected wait time.
Lack of satisfaction results when customer are unfamiliar with the usual length of wait for service being sought for, the length of the actual queue may provide no helpful information about the likely wait time. In theme and amusement parks, the strategy is commonly used throughout the parks provide information on expected wait times at various attractions which gives the customers the psychological preparation as they end up for the wait. When customers enters an attraction's waiting line, provisions are, made for the likely length of time required at various points in the line from that point forward. The wait times are usually longer than the actual service time reducing chances of anxiety and unhappiness once that quoted wait time expires.
The unexplained waits feel longer than explained waits if customers do not know what is holding up a line resulting to the delay, but if they know the reason the wait will not fell longer .However, when there are unanticipated delays in the service the reasons for the delay should be provided to the waiting customers explaining the cause for the delay to avoid frustration and discontent (Maister, 1988).
Environmental conditions that may cause discomfort makes the wait will feel longer than if they were in comfortable conditions. At Walt Disney World's Disney/MGM Studios attraction was designed as a one-thousand-seat high-energy audience the audience reaction was extremely positive to this format. After the official opening, the wait grew to more than forty-five minutes, the long waits were compounded by the fact that the queue area was poorly designed causing it to be an extremely hot and uncomfortable environment for the participants. The summer heat and humidity for the forty-five minutes wait time meant that the guests lost the mood to enjoy the show regardless of how good the entertainment was (Jones & Peppiat 1996). During the presentation instead of the expected laughter, the viewer was disinterest and silence. With the improvement of the waiting area's conditions, the wait times returned to minimal levels and the show once again became a hit because the queue time has been reduced.
The Virtual Wait Strategy
Efforts to manage the actual waiting experience on customers is a basically made to create a perception that waiting short be as short as possible and making it as entertaining and comfortable as possible. At times waits interfere with the organization's ability to meet its guests' expectations resulting to discontent. At Disney, efforts to reduce both wait times and the perception of waits longer lines are still evident at the most popular attractions points and which has became a major dissatisfier for its guests. The managers continue tirelessly to come up with innovative ways of eliminating the actual physical waiting associated with the wait. Their efforts and technology availability led to the development of the virtual-queue concept whose initial idea was to eliminate the physical act of standing in line by putting guests in a register and letting a computer to save their place. When the guests' virtual place gets to the front, they return and enter the attraction instead of having to queue in a physical line. These ensures that the guests became more free to use that time to leisurely visit other attractions thus enjoying the various activities available throughout the park this was first tested at Disney World in 1998 and results of the initial test were positive and encouraging. Relatively surveys showed that guests who made use of this virtual-queue system spent less time in lines, more per capita, and saw more attractions unlike their colleques who opted for other methods. Overall guests had significantly higher levels of satisfaction
(Dickson, Ford & Laval 2005).
The FASTPASS, TM system was installed after a series of tests and refinements at five of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World. Due to its overwhelming guest response and success, FASTPASS was expanded to all the Disney Parks. The simplicity of the system has attracted many quests and reduced queues. According to the number of guests are already in the virtual queue and the processing capacity of the computer , the computer estimates how long it will for each quest to reach the front line. The estimated time is then translated to mean the amount of time is designated to return and printed out their guests' FASTPASS ticket. With the single ticket the quest is able to visit other attractions throughout the park without worrying on queuing again. During the time to print, the guests simply return to the designated FASTPASS entrance and directly collect their ticket with little or no wait. However, the ticket allows their quests to provide the guests a sixty-minute "window of time" to sum up there tour experience (Diaz & Ruiz, 2002).
The distinguishing feature of the system is that when the guests approach it, it offers two clear choices. The first being a choice to obtain a FASTPASS ticket and later return at their designated later time and they may choose to wait in a "standby" line.
The virtual-queue system provides has helped reduce the time guests spent. Most of them spent as much as three to four hours in a day waiting in line which severely limited the total number of attractions that they can see during the day. Use of FASTPASS has become successful by increasing the number of attractions a quest can visit during the day. The other benefit is the fact that guests also used some of the time "freed up" from lines to engage in other revenue-producing activities
(Dickson, Ford & Laval 2005).
The virtual queue has enabled companies to have variable and unpredictable operating capacity to provide their customers. The virtual-queue strategy was a successful and innovative way of taking the physical waiting out of the wait thus making it an overall success. Virtual queues provide an important strategy for creating satisfied customers in waiting lines by eliminating the long wait times customers experienced in the past.
In conclusion, quests hospitality and service organizations do not want to wait for the service they are paying good money for. The virtue queue have come out to utilize customers time compared to the initial methods that included physical queuing that made customers dissatisfied with the whole system. At Disney, the of virtue queue offers hospitality and service organizations a new face diminish the negative aspects of customer waits. In my opinion, this concept would work best in theme and amusement parks. Maximizing these models have maximized capacity use and lead to minimized customer dissatisfaction although to managers this should not be the only tools to keep customers satisfied but they should embrace other innovative technological ways without relying on what they presently have. In any hospitality and service organizations organization the most important objective of the organization is to reducing the actual wait time for its customers so as to improve their confidence and satisfaction, the development of virtual queues, to the industry is important and exciting ways to make the wait and queues virtually invisible.