Admit it: aside from lines at airport check-in or security, or at some other government agency where they seem to be the norm, there are very few queues that people will tolerate for more than five or 10 minutes. We all have way too many other things to do. But what if you could use that time far more meaningfully? What if you could keep your place in line without actually standing around with nothing to do?
That's the pain point being addressed by QLess, which is billed as a mobile queue management solution. "Having someone wait for service is like pouring water into a funnel too fast," said Alex Backer, the scientist and inventor who came up with the application after standing in a California theme park line for way too long. "One thing that businesses don't know is how much business they are losing by tolerating lines."
The QLess platform works by turning real-world lines into virtual queues. A customer can join the line from a cell phone, a Web application or maybe a touchscreen kiosk that's located in your lobby. They can also be added by one of your employees.
Once a person's place is established, he or she can run other errands in the interim, receiving a text when their turn has arrived. In January, I wrote about a similar application,, which is mainly focused on restaurants.
QLess counts roughly 10 million users on both the consumer and business side.
The application doesn't require anything on the "waiter's" end: they receive a text or call that keeps them updated on their status; or they can watch their status in a mobile app if they want. (Their place is usually represented with the last four digits of their phone number, for privacy reasons.)
The business manages the queues through a mobile application that can be installed on a tablet or through a cloud-hosted service. The screenshot above shows the graphical view of lines being managed by a business or organization.
Why should you consider this? Backer estimates that up to 50 percent of potential customers will leave a restaurant, store or service establishment when presented with the prospect of a lengthy wait. Many of them have a more favorable impression of businesses that take their time into consideration and that are transparent about when it might be best to return to complete a transaction, he said.
"This is a really easy way to move from complaints to satisfaction, and it offers an opportunity to really engage from the beginning," Backer said.
Since it was founded in 2007, QLess figures it has saved individuals an estimated 226 years from waiting in line.