Virtual queuing all but replaces physical lines, waiting areas

The technology is opening the door to a wide array of opportunities in customer experience and sales expansion.

Before 2020, improving the customer experience and expanding sales opportunities were already top of mind for many drug stores and retail pharmacies. COVID-19 changed everything.

Steve Covate, vice president of sales, Qtrac by Lavi Industries
Steve Covate, vice president of sales, Qtrac by Lavi Industries

Those changes are still in progress, but customer experience and sales expansion haven’t disappeared as worthy goals. The opportunities to further these initiatives expanded during the pandemic. Virtual queuing is opening the door to some of these opportunities. 

The technology is straightforward: A digital system manages the queue and all but replaces physical lines and waiting areas. However, a virtual queue offers much more than just a different way for people to wait for service.

How Virtual Queuing Works

Many pharmacies offer some sort of digital system to manage prescriptions, refills and vaccination appointments. A virtual queuing system doesn’t differ much in theory. Instead, it manages customers at the store as they wait for service.

[Read more: Amazon to acquire One Medical for $3.9B]

The process starts simply: Customers arrive at the pharmacy counter and enter the virtual queue by scanning a QR code, sending a text message or inputting their information at a kiosk. Customers then receive notifications on their smartphones on estimated wait times, as well as an alert to return to the counter for service.

This technology delivers better organization by handling all the queue management tasks that staff members would otherwise manage. Moreover, the system can be configured to prioritize certain customers based on their needs. For example, someone dropping off a prescription shouldn’t have to wait a long time for something that usually is quick.

Increased Sales

Customers in a waiting area tend to be stuck there. By keeping people informed via their smartphones, virtual queuing opens the entire store to customers while they wait. The opportunity for additional sales increases, which benefits retail pharmacies and smaller drug stores alike.

[Read more: Walmart Health Virtual Care to use Gyant’s AI-powered virtual assistant]

Furthermore, some digital queuing platforms can send promotions, coupons and other offers directly to customers’ phones as they wait. These promotions can be part of a standard strategy, or they can be a peace offering triggered when a certain event occurs (e.g., “We know you’ve been waiting a long time; here’s a coupon for a $1 off a latte at the coffee counter!”).

“While benefiting the pharmacy operation, virtual queuing also improves the customer experience.”

A Better Customer Experience

While benefiting the pharmacy operation, virtual queuing also  improves the customer experience. Some of the ways this happens include:

  • Customers know exactly how long they’ll wait and receive regular updates;
  • Staffers already know what service customers require as well as any special needs they may have. This speeds up the service and creates a more personalized experience;
  • Customers don’t have to worry that a careless employee will inadvertently divulge personal information. Virtual queuing provides an added layer of discretion, all in a secure HIPAA-compliant platform; and
  • The efficiency gained often leads to faster wait times, which customers always appreciate.

[Read more: Teladoc medical virtual care to be accessible via Amazon Alexa]

That last benefit underscores another reason virtual queuing has become attractive. Waiting in a crowded space with other possibly sick people wasn’t comfortable before the pandemic, and it has only gotten worse.

Virtual queuing gives customers the power to wait how they want. It can thin crowds in waiting areas, and someone can choose to move somewhere else while knowing their place in line is secure.

The customer experience forever changed as a result of COVID-19. Virtual queue management offers a small way to make a big impact on that experience at a time when your customers want to feel confident and accommodated.