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virtual queue

What are Virtual Queues?

Virtual queues and virtual queue systems reduce wait times, give guests flexibility, & increase customer satisfaction. See how they can work for your business.



Mon May 08 2023 • 7 min read

What are Virtual Queues?

What if there was a way for you to reduce congestion in your facility, increase sales, and improve customer satisfaction — all with one easy step? That’s the idea behind virtual queues, a concept that has already taken off across industries.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the concept of virtual queues and how you may be able to incorporate a virtual queue system into your business.

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What is a virtual queue?

A virtual queue is an alternative to physical lines. Instead of wasting hours waiting for an attraction, facility, or service, customers can quickly join an online queue, and then spend their wait time as they please. You can allow customers to leave the premises, get things like waiver forms filled out or payments processed while they wait, or encourage them to explore other parts of your business.

The idea of virtual queuing is not new. Organizations like banks and amusement parks have been using virtual queues for years to reduce wait times for their customers. You’ve probably joined a virtual waitlist at a restaurant or waited in a digital queue to purchase tickets online to a concert.

Today, virtual queues are more accessible than ever before. Most everyone has a phone and we now know QR codes very well, so virtual queues are easy to implement at pretty much any type of business – from large-scale events to medical facilities to small shops.

How does a virtual queue system work?‌‌

illustration of virtual queue wait time estimate
Virtual queue management solutions like Waitwhile keep your guests updated with AI-powered wait time estimates.

When you’re considering implementing a new service, it’s important to understand the ins and outs. Virtual queuing is there to reduce the hassle for you and your customers. Here’s what you need to know about implementing one at your business.

Types of virtual queues

There are two different types of virtual queues: hybrid queues and fully virtual queues.

Hybrid queues

Hybrid queues involve having customers “line up” via an online queue system for something that will take place in person. For example, imagine wanting to queue up for a ride at a theme park. In a hybrid queue, a guest would join the line virtually through a personal or business-provided device, and then would be free to wander the park, enjoying concessions and other attractions while waiting for their turn. When it’s their turn, they would need to physically return to the attraction.

In a hybrid queuing system, you may choose to have a virtual queue operating alongside a traditional physical line. For example, you may want to give your guests the option of joining the line virtually before they’ve arrived on site while still accommodating walk-up customers.

The optics of having both a physical and virtual line are tricky though, as people in the physical line can feel cheated if they see members from the virtual line getting served first – even though both guests may have “waited” the same amount of time. This is something to consider as you hammer out the ideal customer flow for your business.

Fully virtual queues

Unlike hybrid queues, fully virtual queues do not require customers to have a physical presence in your business at all. Consider, for example, a customer who needs to interact with an online bank teller. They may join an online queue via a chat box, and then do some work in their office or get errands done while waiting for their turn to come up. Once it’s their turn, they’re assisted online, via text message, or on the phone, rather than needing to appear in person.

How do customers interact with virtual queues

Regardless of whether the service you’re offering is in-person, online, or a mix of the two, virtual queues are equally easy to set up and run.

Customer interactions

Customers can join a virtual queue in a number of different ways – and you can decide what makes the most sense for your business. With a virtual queue system like Waitwhile, you can offer any combination of the following options:

  • Having employees manually add guests to a virtual queue
  • Letting customers text a number to join
  • Providing a QR code on site for guests to scan
  • Setting up a self check-in kiosk
  • Allowing visitors to join a virtual queue at home via your website
  • Embedding your virtual queue into an app your customers already use
  • Adding a virtual queue to your Google Maps listing

To join, customers will fill out a brief form (which you can customize) with, for example, their name, phone number, email, and service desired.

Once in the queue, customers will receive real-time updates on their status. You can also choose to send your visitors updates via SMS or email – and they can text or message back to ask questions or ask for an extension if their turn is coming up.

Employee and staff administration tools

For employees, virtual queue systems come with a centralized dashboard providing all the information needed to service customers in order. You can automate tedious tasks like messaging, wait time updates, and prioritizing VIPs.

On a management level, you get access to easy-to-understand analytics. You’ll be able to see when business is busiest, which employees and services are most in-demand, and get personalized recommendations on changes you can make to improve your wait times.

‌‌illustration of management interface for virtual queue
Virtual queues are easy and intuitive to manage on the backend.

What are the benefits of virtual queues over physical lines?

The main benefit of virtual queues is that they reduce critical pain points at the start of a customer’s journey. They reduce congestion, drive customer traffic to other locations, reduce stress levels, and improve overall customer satisfaction. Plus you get robust analytics to improve your operations.

Floorspace management and congestion reduction

One of the major benefits of virtual queues is that they eliminate the need for physical lines. This clears up your walking paths and reduces overall congestion in your establishment.

Opportunities to drive customer traffic to other locations

Virtual queues have the potential to increase revenue for your business. Instead of lining up for a ride, for example, customers at an amusement park can join a virtual queue and then purchase concessions while they wait, driving up your revenue. A retail business might offer an online queue for returns after the holidays, allowing customers to wander the store and look at other products while waiting for their opportunity to return an item.

Reduce customer stress and improve customer service

You want your customers to be happy with your overall customer service. Virtual queues can help facilitate this by reducing the stress of standing in line.

In fact, a recent Waitwhile consumer survey found that people far prefer waiting in virtual queues rather than physical lines. Here’s what we found:

  • Nearly 75% of consumers associate waiting in line with a negative emotion like annoyance, frustration, and impatience
  • 70% of people would rather wait in a virtual queue than a physical one if given the choice
  • Almost 60% of people are willing to wait longer in a virtual line. Nearly 71% are willing to wait an extra 15 minutes or more in an online queue.

Allowing customers to queue virtually – and do other things while waiting – reduces the stressors associated with physical lines, improving satisfaction. This is critical since, according to a Microsoft study, 96% of customers agree that great customer service is a factor in deciding which brands they'll remain loyal to.

What are the key elements of a successful virtual queue implementation?

Here’s what you need to think about when implementing a virtual queue system at your business.

Key elements of successful implementation

  1. Easy-to-use technology that your staff members can update as needed is key to making this happen. The last thing you want is for customers or staff members to find the technology cumbersome. Virtual queue management systems like Waitwhile are designed for ease of use, and can be set up in as little as an hour. ‌‌
  2. Put in the effort at the beginning of your implementation to make sure that all of your staff are adequately trained on how your online queue system works. Easy-to-use tools like Waitwhile shouldn’t require much training, but intentionally building in time at the start of your product onboarding to go over the ins and outs will have long term payoffs. See if your virtual queue system provider has materials you can use or if they can even lead the training session for you.
  3. Virtual queues are – well – virtual. It’s important to check that your Wi-Fi connection is stable. Be sure to test the connectivity anywhere your guests may be trying to access the virtual queue on your premises. If you’re using SMS messaging to stay in contact with your guests during their wait, ensure that cellphone reception is consistent, too. ‌‌
  4. You’ll also want to make sure that your new tech plays well with your existing stack. Be sure that your virtual queue solution integrates with the tools you’re already using.  ‌‌
  5. In-app analytics designed to help you uncover the cause of delays can also help you get the most out of your virtual queue and improve your overall customer service. As you identify places your customers are getting caught up, you can work to implement creative solutions to those problems.

Examples of great virtual queue systems

Virtual queues can be implemented across any industry or business type for better, more efficient operations. Here are some great examples:

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