The need and opportunity for optimizing in-person queuing has become evident during the last six months. Less than a year ago, customers were able to pile into grocery stores, theaters, banks and clubs without any concern -- aside from maybe reaching the fire code occupancy limit. But today, things are different. Essential businesses must keep their doors open, their stores safe and their customers happy, but concerns about public safety and adherence to social distancing rules has led to many businesses losing their charm and their utility as places for social gathering.
As people wait for the virus to wane and restrictions to be lifted so they can carry on with their normal lives, software companies, hardware companies and signage companies have been trying to mitigate the negative effects of social distancing and lockdowns. 'Wear Your Mask' signs on supermarket entrances, floor markers set 6-feet apart, door greeters and many more low-tech solutions are being used to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but often at the cost of creating a less-than-satisfactory customer experience.
Meanwhile, technology companies have responded to the crisis by creating and optimizing products to reduce physical foot traffic to businesses (for example, by using e-commerce delivery and video conferencing) and help ensure that in-person employees and visitors remain safe and comfortable. Many customer service-based businesses have implemented appointment booking solutions that help manage the flow of on-site foot traffic, while some retailers, grocery stores and gas stations have been using closed circuit video at the entrances to enforce occupancy limits.
Essential institutions such as schools and hospitals have been more strict, often requiring some kind of testing before entry. Many schools and businesses across the world have started using temperature-taking kiosks at entry points, or manning the doors with employees who use IR thermometers to quickly test anyone wanting to enter.
In a hybrid high-tech/low-tech approach, several bank groups have stationed a greeter at the entrance to help customers make an appointment. After filling out a survey with the greeter, the client is placed in a digital queue that sends text messages as their turn approaches. Other appointment-based businesses are using online appointment scheduling tools that give the user a link to click or QR code to be scanned on arrival to reduce physical queuing in crowded areas. IBM’s Digital Health Pass
, unveiled in early October, is another complementary tool created to give people more confidence in public areas The Digital Health Pass works by creating a QR code based on the user’s vaccination record or COVID-19 test results, allowing for a quick scan to then facilitate entry.
Other large technology companies such as Alphabet, Microsoft and CVS Health have been working on 're-opening' applications that focus on predicting and containing the virus using many different testing and tracing technologies. Smaller tech companies who specialize in queueing technology and digital signage, like WireSpring, are rapidly iterating on greeter-free virtual queuing options that let patrons pre-book appointments themselves, or scan a QR code on arrival to be placed into a digital queue.
With lockdowns expected to continue into 2021, businesses and their customers will likely continue to lean heavily on new technology to reduce the stress of dealing with social distancing and other restrictions until the threat of the COVID-19 virus eventually declines.