Is there anyone who likes to wait in the line?


This week we have learned Queuing Theory in the class 823.

People are sometimes impatient and it is difficult for them to wait in line to receive services. Queuing Theory is the study of how to make waiting more enjoyable (not quite J but partially maybe). Queuing theory proposes to predict the waiting time in the line. Generally, these predictions are helpful for operations researchers as they can use them to make systems more efficient.

In class, we have talked about several negative stories in which people moved in front of someone or they did not obey the rules while waiting in the line. Unfortunately, the ends of the stories were dramatic. (Eric can tell you more about the stories).

Even though general systems are based on first come first serve, sustainability of this rule is a public issue. People get angry and frustrated and they do not want to wait even a second more. There can be priorities for some people such as individuals with disabilities, elderly, and pregnant women. Moreover, some companies prioritize their customers in service so that those customers feel like they are privileged.

I would like to share one of my personal stories on this topic. About a month ago, while I was traveling, one of my flights was cancelled. This was a connecting flight and since one of them was cancelled I needed to reschedule all of my flights. I called the airline’s help center. I tried to talk to them for a longtime as they were repeatedly checking my information and were trying to find a new flight. Eventually, I was given a new connecting flight after three hours of talking and waiting on the phone. By the way, I should thank them because I listened to their very nice music while waiting and they keep saying me “One moment, please. … Your call is important to us. …. A representative will be with you shortly.” Do you think that this is the end of the story? Of course not!

The next day, I was finally in the airplane and took my first flight. After I completed my first connecting flight, I learned that the airline had not purchased my second flight and instead just reserved it. Therefore, I needed to call them back.

The phone signal was not good at all at the airport. While I was talking with the call center person, my call was dropped… after I had told the story and they were trying to help me. I called them six times and each time the call was dropped. Each time a different person answered my call and each time, I had to tell them the whole story from the beginning.

Finally, they resolved the issue and I was ready for my next flight. However, they spent so much time to confirm my flight by the time they solve the issue, it was too late for the next flight and then I missed that. I took another flight after waiting 7 hours in the airport, but no worries at the end I reached my destination.

As can be understood, the story is not fun when it occurs to you. However, I believe that there is something that we can learn from this experience. After all, it could be good to have a kind of new calling system for companies in which they can dispatch the dropped call to the same employee who was previously talking with the costumer. By doing that, the customer will be more satisfied with the service because they will get faster help that will shorten the waiting time. Importantly, costumers will not have to tell the whole story to every airline operator.

There is a type of Queue called virtual queue, in this type of queue the caller choose to be called back when there is an available server.


One possible solution could be the virtual queue system. The virtual queue system could be adapted to these kind of cases, and if the server need more than certain threshold time, they can give you the option to call you back, when they resolve your problem with the estimated time. Hence the caller will not wait with the phone and the not need to worry about whether the call will be dropped during the waiting time.

I do not know if someone has studied this specific topic. However, according to my experience, it is worth thinking about the possibilities.

I wish there could be days in the future when no one will wait in the line…


Gisby, Doug. “Intelligent virtual queue.” U.S. Patent No. 6,002,760. 14 Dec. 1999.


3 thoughts on “Is there anyone who likes to wait in the line?

  1. Your story sounds really painful. I could imagine how it would feel like to standing in the middle of airport holding your baggages without knowing when they will answer you to let you know how you may reach your destination…
    I personally also have a story of waiting during the call that’s the source of sympathy. Months ago I ordered a bunch of furniture via online that were supposed to delivered after 2 weeks but never arrived. I called the seller, and had to keep listening to endless beautiful musics with lady’s voice of saying your call is very important to us…and it took additional lovely 4 weeks until they finally allow me to figure out what happened to my order.
    It would be certainly lovely if they had this virtual queue. Then they could have put me somewhere in the queue so that I could be connected to the service provider at some point instead of keep trying new calls without any guarantee on how long my wait would be. This intelligent virtual queue concept sounds really attractive in a sense that they give you certain guarantee that you would be reached eventually, which is an important factor for customer satisfaction in waiting queue.
    By the way, I wonder if anybody know a real-world example of somebody actually implementing this virtual queue?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was really bad experience, but I tackled it. Your experience sounds like painful too. There are several companies selling virtual queuing systems. Hence it is implemented and it is on the market. May need time to be more common usage in the area. This virtual queuing is really promising to solve the waiting time issue in the queue. Even though it is not decreasing the time to wait in the queue, at least you are not waiting on call with not knowing when they will talk to you back. I think keep saying, “One moment, please. … Your call is important to us. …. A representative will be with you shortly “ does not have an effect on the customers who are waiting on the call at all. If they say you, after (let say) 15 min they will call you back, and they do, it will increase the customer’s satisfaction level.


  3. Dropped calls is a huge problem for many call centers now. This is a course on public sector OR so I want to add a couple of things about public call centers. The goals can be different. Customer satisfaction may not be the goal.

    Benefits offices like Social Security dole out billions in benefits to people in need, and as a result, fraud is a huge issue. If they increase the cost of getting the benefits (through lengthy forms and long queues) then many fraudulent people will abandon the queue, which will cut down on claims. The people that really need the benefits may have the time and energy to wait in line (e.g., because they are not able to work and have “free time”). I don’t mean to pick on Social Security! They provide essential services and unfortunately have to find a way to deal with fraud.

    Here is another story from memory (I’m not sure if all the details are right!). Awhile ago, one of the Chicago news stations did an expose on long waits for prescriptions in Cook County hospitals. Some people had to wait about 8 hours to pick up their prescriptions at the pharmacy. At the time, my cousin was a resident at the Cook County hospitals and said that the long queues were a cost cutting measure. The hospitals offered *free* prescriptions — and drugs are expensive. The long waits ensured that only those who could not afford the prescriptions and had the time would get their prescriptions for free. Otherwise, the hospitals might have to shut down. I’d rather pay a few bucks to fill a prescription at a drugstore where I don’t have to wait, but then again, I have insurance and not a lot of free time.


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