A quick fix for queues

Jun 01, 2010

Queuing, standing in line... it's what we do well, but complain about the most. Thankfully, science is coming to the rescue as researchers in Taiwan have devised a formula that could revolutionize restaurants, post offices, customer service desks, and theater ticket sales everywhere.

Business management professor Pen-Yuan Liao of the National United University in Miaoli, Taiwan, that queuing as one of life's inevitabilities when seeking fast food, restaurant services, banking and postal services, and shopping and buying tickets for events and activities, or waiting for your turn on a theme park ride. No one enjoys queuing, so even small reductions in waiting time will result in better quality of service and lead to enhancing customer loyalty and so increased sales, Liao says.

"The profit loss from business resulting from inefficient queuing systems is quite difficult to estimate," Liao explains, "but there is a creative and effective way to formulate the costs of waiting and so improve and sales."

Liao has devised a scientific formula he refers to as the "balking index", which is referred to by the Greek letter theta. Ironically, this symbol is used elsewhere in science as shorthand for temperature, a parameter that often rises among people standing in ineffective queues. Liao has encapsulated theta as relating the expected queue length and the mean arrival rate in a given time period. Multiplying the balking index, the queue length, and the mean arrival rate gives you the number of frustrated customers who will leave their position in the queue in that time period.

"Estimating balking loss enables a store manager or other person in charge of staffing levels to determine the optimal number of servers by minimizing total cost, including service cost and balking loss," says Liao. He has successfully tested the formula in advising a fast food manager on how many staff to have serving at any given time depending on the balking index.

"By using this formula, approach, restaurants and other services that have queues can cut costs and improve customer loyalty," he says, "Customers benefit from much reduced queuing times."

Explore further: Mathematical model tackles 'Game of Thrones' predictions

More information: "Optimal staffing policy for queuing systems with cyclic demands" in Int. J. Services and Operations Management, 2010, 7, 317-332

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

To queue or not to queue?

Sep 22, 2008

If there's one thing that separates humankind from the animals, it's that human beings wait in lines. To make a deposit at the bank, to pay for groceries, even to vote -- we've all learned to queue, one behind the other. ...

'Subjective time' can improve your bottom line

Feb 04, 2010

Time flies when you're having fun, but minutes can feel like hours in a dentist's waiting room. Our ideas of "time" are highly subjective and can depend on a stimulus — or the lack of one — in our environment.

Poor customer service leads to loss of customers

Mar 26, 2009

Cost reductions are high on the agenda in many firms. Cost reductions often result in manning reductions and fewer employees. Customer service is a labour intensive function, and is therefore very likely to be affected by ...

Offshoring: Where's the value?

Jul 08, 2008

U.S. firms that offshore customer service may save money on labor costs, but they also pay the price in terms of unhappy customers, say University of Michigan researchers.

Recommended for you

Power can corrupt even the honest

6 hours ago

When appointing a new leader, selectors base their choice on several factors and typically look for leaders with desirable characteristics such as honesty and trustworthiness. However once leaders are in power, can we trust ...

Learning at 10 degrees north

7 hours ago

Secluded beaches, calypso music and the entertaining carnival are often what come to mind when thinking of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. But Dal Earth Sciences students might first consider Trinidad's ...

How to find the knowns and unknowns in any research

9 hours ago

Have you ever felt overloaded by information? Ever wondered how to make sense of claims and counter-claims about a topic? With so much information out there on many different issues, how is a person new to ...

Minorities energize US consumer market, according to report

9 hours ago

The buying power of minority groups in the U.S. has reached new heights and continues to outpace cumulative inflation, according to the latest Multicultural Economy Report from the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the ...

User comments : 0