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Race to the Finish: What Kind of Line Really Saves Time?

Race to the Finish: What Kind of Line Really Saves Time?

QuikLine Automated Line Management

“Single file, everybody!”

Is a parallel or single file line faster? “Single file, everybody!” Virtually all teachers say this in elementary school. Like a snake, you’d inch toward your destination together. Sometimes you’d stop so the teacher could look back, making sure students were present and well-behaved. Eventually, you got where you needed to go.

If you’re a teacher wrangling school children, the single-line exercise is probably a necessity. But what if you’re a retailer? Even with multiple cashiers, does it help if everyone’s standing in the same line?

Research and beliefs suggested for years that one line to numerous resisters was preferred. It works in many cases. Today still, large retailers, ticket sellers and the busiest coffee shops use this solution. Just because it works, however, doesn’t mean it’s the fastest way to move customers through the checkout line.

Surprise: There’s a quicker way!

The secret (in addition to using QuikLine, of course) is the staff.

In the first study of its kind taking behavior into account, the single-line method with multiple cashiers was slower than parallel lines with multiple cashiers. In the parallel dynamic, each cashier manages their own line, which causes behavior changes that speed up the process for customers. Prior to this study, researchers only looked at lines mathematically, which assumed single lines worked best. When you consider behaviors, it changes.

Weird that a parallel line could be faster, right?

CPS QuikLine

CPS QuikLine reduces the wait at checkout at Whole Foods Market 57th St NYC Store on Opening Day

It actually makes sense. In the single-line format, everyone works together to move the line. But this doesn’t incentivize staff to work as quickly as they otherwise might. Empowering each cashier to manage their own line allows them to feel a sense of responsibility. They have a better visual of their own queue and they know they’re accountable for their own line’s progress. It also causes healthy and friendly competition among staff to be as efficient as possible.

Researchers specializing in behavioral economics and operations published the study in an academic journal. Since not many store managers are likely to read academic journals, this is still a secret of line queue management that not all stores understand.

In addition, given today’s physical distancing measures, parallel lines can also help increase safety by not clumping all customers together in the same queue. It may actually keep people safer as well, though that has yet to be formally studied since we’re still in the midst of the pandemic. What we do know is that when workers have their own dedicated space and set of customers – a parallel queuethey work faster.

Busy retailers need a flexible queue management solution!

Whether single line or parallel line, QuikLine is a flexible queue management solution. It’s unique from other systems out there because it handles multi-line configurations that are easily modified based upon demand from a computer, tablet or phone. As retailers experiment with their own line queue formats, they can rest assured that QuikLine is able to handle their needs.

If you’re a teacher who has to manage children, however, you might want to stick with that tried and true single-file line. 😉

What’s the line setup at your local stores? Do you notice parallel lines versus single lines? Drop a comment of which you find faster!

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