Queueless World

Recently at work we have been having some extended discussions about the advantages of the age old “skills based routing” and how it really meets the needs of service centers. Newer technologies are coming which remove this distribution across queues to a more single queue processing (more on that in another post). I would like to differ with those ideas and propose a better way to handle work, I think more a queueless solution is needed.

Think of this scenario; if I were running a business and had lines of people waiting at my doors, I would want to make the best (not fairest) decision of who goes where next and to whom. Knowing I may not service all in a timely manner, why would I not?

Ok, ok this might sound pretty unfair (all customers or potential customers deserve the same attention, right) but give me a second to give two examples.

Small store owner:

If I had a small grocery store which is at a central bus stop and customers come in often to quickly grab something while waiting on the next bus, I know I may not get to every customer before they jump on the next bus so I would want to make sure that I service those clients which mean the most to my business; to my future. So, if there are a few school boys with a candy bar in mind and then there are a few people looking to grab their evening dinner, which should I chose? Is this fair? Maybe not. But hey, this is my business. Perhaps I choose to send those with the candy bars to my young assistant who might handle their needs. Me, I might focus on those key players.

Now enter the plethora of queues which are built in typical systems. Those at our supermarkets as well as those at our call centers. The logic built or better often used in them does not typically take into account who is who and who is then going to be handled by the next service agent. It just doesn’t pan out. We need to get rid of this queuing. We need a better way of handling those clients which deserve a particular handling, and that might mean not being the first.

Just because someone is at the head of the queue, does that mean they will be handled best and by the right person?

Bank Manager:

Another example. Mrs Meier comes into the bank every Wednesday at the end of the month to collect her pension money. She has been a customer for longer then any one can remember, but she has a certain way which can keep a typical teller busy for 20 minutes or longer. Not good for the rest of my customers. There is though a certain teller which knows her well and can handle her visits regularly in 5 minutes or less but is currently busy with another client. What would you do?

These examples would allow for a decision maker to jump in and make those decisions in real time, But both examples detail as well the weakness of queuing. Where this idea breaks down. Just because I get to the head of the queue, does that mean I should or will be handled the best? No.

Alternatives?

Bring in a queueless world. You are treated by the best in the most appropriate time. The ideal person handles your needs in the right amount of time, even if this means having to delay the person for a period of time. Would this be acceptable? It seems to make sense to me and plenty of businesses have been instituting this for years. Sometimes using last agent, or preferred agent routing. Others as “best services” routing. All trying to build a world where it can adjust to real world changes. But they are all still stuck in queues, unable to adjust to changes happening and all those queues vying for that next resource.

Is this the perfect democracy? No. Is it what a business owner would want to implement? Ask your local grocer. I bet so. Try it.

Photo credit: Under CC from Peter Honeyman

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