So I was at the city’s development permit office the other day and just like the DMV or any other government run admin set-up, they asked me to take a ticket and wait for my number to be called. Problem is that this office takes about a day to get through the queue. No joke, I’ve shown up at 9am up in the morning, only to be told at 445pm that they wouldn’t be able to get to me today.
Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I did arrive early in the morning and I did take a ticket but I didn’t stay there all day. The ticket system that they have is digital and there’s a city URL which lets you monitor your queue so that you can go about your day and pop back in when your number is close. That’s definitely a step up from having to commit and entire day to waiting in that line without knowing if they’ll get to you… but not by much. It did however give me an idea.
A few years ago, a new steakhouse opened up in a trendy part of town and apparently it had the nicest patio in the whole city. A few friends and I were hanging out at a friend’s place a few blocks away and thought we’d try them for dinner. When we arrived, we were told that it would be an hour wait. We were about to decline but they suggested we take what looked like a puck with a bunch of blinking lights on it. Apparently, this contraption would blink and buzz when our table was available. We figured sure, why not. We went to a restaurant a few doors down and started with a few drinks but ended up ordering food anyways. Ironically, the thing didn’t buzz until we were back at my friend’s place a few hours later. Now it’s a coaster.
That was the first time I had seen one of those, but I’ve seen them plenty more since. I don’t like it. There’s a better way of doing this.
What if… there was an app for that?
Let’s call this app take-a-tic, a shameless rip off of a friend’s company, Picatic. I swear I’ll come up with a better name if I ever pull the trigger on this. Anyways, the idea is that this is line-up management software. Whether you’re a restaurant, a city by-law office, or somewhere in between, this just seems… more efficient.
Imagine walking into the DMV and seeing a crowd of people that probably amounts to a wait time of at least an hour. Ain’t nobody got time for that. So you head to the front counter and ‘take-a-tic’. Instead of getting a piece of paper with a number on it, your position in the queue is loaded into your app. It would be fun to think of all the paper we’d save but I’m far more interested in all the time we’d save. Imagine being able to leave and getting a notification of when you should head back. Imagine the app using your GPS, knowing how far you’ve gone, how long it’ll take to get back, and then takes that into consideration for when to send you a reminder. Imagine being notified at the most inconvenient time and being able to hit the snooze button and let a few people go ahead of you without losing your place in line. Not bad right?
While the convenience is certainly there for the user, it needs to make sense for the business as well. There are more demands on our time than perhaps ever before and when a business says their cost savings is more important than your time.. it tends to not go over well. When you show your customers that you value their time, you tend to end up with happy customers. As with any scalable app, data analytics come into play and in this case, could help businesses better manage their queue. Finally, and perhaps the most obvious: cost savings. Without any need for hardware or physical tickets, the only real cost is the subscription to the service.
My first thought when looking to poke holes in this was nobody’s going to download an app just to wait in your line. If they have the choice between that and the blinking coaster, they probably take the blinking coaster 8 out of 10 times. But… what if everyone used the same app? What if you downloaded the app for dinner a few weeks ago, but through out the year was able to use it at several other businesses? What if every long lineup was equipped with this tech? Well, now it has merit. And if everyone is using it, it opens up a few more possibilities.
What if you were thinking about going to the DMV today but wasn’t sure about how to schedule it in? What if you could open your app, search the DMV, and see what their queue was like today? What if it came with comparisons to last week and this time last year? What if you could even jump in the queue from home? I’ll admit that last one might create more problems than it solves.. but maybe not.
If you were to give someone the ability to lineup from home, then you’re likely going to boost your no-show rate. But what if there was a way to screen for that? If everyone was using the app, perhaps businesses would have the ability to view a user’s no-show rate. Or maybe it would make sense for the business to set the bar for who can line up from home. For example, I probably show up to 95% of my commitments on time or early. If a business could see that, they would have no issues with me jumping in the queue from home. But lets say my no-show rate on the app was 50%, businesses would have the option to bounce that request.
What this all amounts to is efficiency of time. I’m the first to avoid a place if it has a long line up. 45 minute wait for brunch? No thanks. Line up to get in the club? Ya right. Might be able to fit you in at the bar in about an hour? Bite me. But there are some lines you can’t avoid. For those, I’d love to have access to something like this. If it was mass-adopted, imagine how many hours could be used more efficiently. Who knows, something like that might even boost GDP, haha.