Parts of the world are slowly reopening business as Covid starts to subside. But in most places there will be a need for social distancing for the foreseeable future. Long customer queues have become a familiar sight of everyday life. By using an automated scheduling app physical queues can be avoided.
Using a virtual queue is easy:
- Put up a sign with a QR code. Customers can scan this. They do not need to install an app, it works in a web browser on any modern phone
- The QR code shows them your queue. It leads them to a web page that shows the next available time you are available to serve them
- The customer picks a slot. He enters his name in one of the available time slots
- They can then walk away and come back later. They can return at the allotted time, no need to wait in line
- Put a link on your website. A link to the queue on your site allows people to plan ahead without the need to first visit your store to enter the queue. It will also help customers who do not know how to use QR codes
- Manage the queue in the store. In the store you have a phone, iPad or laptop logged in as superuser that shows the details of everyone on the queue so you can monitor the queue size and check who is up next
Make it fit your business
When starting the setup, the first decision is the interval of the slots you want to allow in your queue. You probably want to start with a conservative number to avoid customers showing up at the allotted time while you are still serving the previous customer. You can always change the interval later if it turns out your queue is running empty too fast.
The smallest interval that our system supports is 1 minute, but you can allow multiple slots per interval, so that’s an easy workaround if you need a higher capacity. It may actually be desirably to choose a larger interval, say 10 minutes, and then define, say, 5 parallel slots. This more clearly indicates to the user that their allotted time is approximate, and they will not expect to be served that very minute.
Sometimes you want a different limit on the total capacity of a venue than the limit on the number of people arriving and leaving at the same time. That’s possible too, then you would want to set up the system slightly differently than a regular queue. This is explained in detail in a separate blog on staggered appointments.
By modifying the verbiage on the scheduling page you can explain to your customer how your process works in detail, and add colors and pictures consistent with your brand.
You can optionally add a field with a phone number or email so people can receive a text reminder or email when it’s almost their turn. Sending them an email also allows you to include a link with which they can delete their slot if they change their mind. These details of the queue would typically be hidden from those waiting in line, you can view them when you are logged in as administrator. You can assign “superuser” rights to store staff, so they can view and manage the queue without being able to modify your account.
Sanitize your queue
If you are worried that people might fill up the queue with fake appointments then you could decide to ask them to create a user name before they can sign up. That way the system can prevent duplicate sign ups. Asking customers to sign up also allows you to capture their details to use for marketing purposes. However, asking your customers to create an account obviously adds more friction to the process and some customers may be reluctant to share their details. In practice, few customers experience vandalism problems, and can simply remove obvious fake appointments when they do occur. By configuring a maximum limit to how far in advance people are allowed to sign up you can limit problems as well.
Free to try
You can use the free ad-supported version of SuperSaaS for a queue of up to 50 people, for larger queues and to get rid of ads the smallest $8 subscription will suffice for most stores.
In the tutorial section you can find a step-by-step guide on how to set up a SuperSaaS schedule as a virtual queue. As a neat party trick, if you have an iPhone or iPad you can have Siri announce the next person waiting in line.