Online Waitlist and Reservation Shortfalls in 2022

February 24, 2022 by Mike Wozniak

No doubt that by this point, you’ve joined at least one waitlist or made a reservation using your phone. Would you say the process was perfect? By perfect, I mean were you able to complete the whole thing within a few taps? Did your wait time account for your physical distance from the location? Could you see all your options at a glance so that you could get on the list that best served your priorities? Once you arrived, was everything ready or did you have to continue waiting? Did anyone who arrived after you get served before you?

While online waitlists and reservation systems have been around for years and have only increased in popularity since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, they still leave a lot to be desired. Whether the provider is a restaurant, salon, spa, physician, or even a quick service station for your car, it’s rare for everything to run smoothly from the moment you join the list or make the reservation to the moment you get served.

I’m going to explain several reasons I think these systems will continue to fall short in 2022. But being the solutions-oriented person that I am, I’m also going to tell you how I’m fixing these shortfalls!

Shortfall #1: No Aggregation of Waitlists and Reservations

Do you remember the progression of searching online for travel options? In the beginning, you had to visit hotel chains and airlines separately to find the best price. Then travel sites popped up that started aggregating the data so that you could compare options and pricing on one page. Then new sites even started aggregating the travel sites! Whether your priority is travel dates, location, price, or amenities, you’ll have all the information you need to make your best-informed decision within about 5 minutes.

We still don’t have that kind of aggregation in the restaurant and service industries. Sure, you can look at a map or certain apps to see what exists in a certain area, and sometimes you can see how busy they are or join a waitlist. But most apps only have those features for their current clients, so they aren’t true aggregations. In other words, you might not be able to join the waitlist at every nearby business, or you might not even see everything that exists in a certain area. Furthermore, the wait time information is usually a snapshot, and you don’t know if those times will still be the same once you arrive.

What’s really frustrating is that determining what you need and how you can get it often requires making direct contact with multiple providers. What if one or two locations take reservations, while others only let you join a waitlist? You may have to call one location to find out the wait or get a reservation, but you have to download an app to get on the list at another. It takes a lot of time, calling, and clicking to narrow down to the choice that best fits your needs. Without aggregation, waitlists will continue to be clunky and inefficient in 2022.

What if you could open an app that presents you with all the options in an area, including current wait times or reservation availability based on your expected arrival time (with optimal accuracy if you share your location)? 

  • Need something in a hurry?
    • Get in line at the closest location with the lowest wait time.
  • Simply making plans for later?
    • Make a reservation.
  • Need to accommodate a large group?
    • Plug in your group size and make a decision based on the location that can take you first.

Aggregation is just one example of how Floqque is solving waitlist and reservation system shortfalls.

Shortfall #2: Wait Times Based on Limited Data

Every one of us has walked up to a hostess stand or reception desk to ask what the wait time is. What kind of data do you believe goes into the estimate they give you? While many restaurants do use app-based table management systems that perform turnover calculations to estimate wait times, there are limitations. First, the system is relying on people being there when their name is called or when their reservation is set. Second, the calculated wait time is typically universal, not always accounting for group sizes. Finally, it’s common for staff to inflate wait times when they are under pressure in order to avoid getting yelled at if the wait is longer than what is being quoted. 

Other service providers have also started using waitlist apps, but most of them are a simple queue, based on nothing other than being the next person to put your name on the list. Say you’re waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket and want to join the waitlist of the salon in the same shopping center from their app. At the moment, there are 3 customers and 3 stylists inside the salon. 5 minutes before you pulled up the waitlist, another customer joined it from their home 25 minutes away. When you join the waitlist from a neighboring store, you’re going to end up behind the person who is still at home! One of those 3 customers will be done shortly, and now that stylist is going to have an empty chair that you could have filled before the person ahead of you in line even got in their car!

What if your wait time was based on real time, automatic communication, and sometimes location data? The restaurant app would offer predictive wait times based on real information about the next group on the list. If they are sharing location with the app, it will know if they are running late. But even if they aren’t sharing location, the system would auto-generate messages to make sure they’ll be on time so it can re-order the list if they won’t. The salon’s waitlist requests location sharing to calculate arrival time so that the person in the parking lot can be served immediately, while the person on their way will be fit right in upon arrival. For appointment-based providers, what if the receptionist could tap a button when the schedule is running ahead or behind that initiates a communication sequence to the next client or patient? Just imagine all the time you could reclaim by simply not wasting time waiting anymore. Floqque is using data-based precision arrival management to update wait times for real time.

Shortfall #3: The Human Element in Reservations and Waitlists

We’re always going to need humans to provide us with services, and providers are always going to need humans as customers and clients. But the truth is that our humanness really does get in the way of effective service provision. What does that look like?

From the customer side, we typically think about our own needs first and about how we impact others second. In the example of the salon from above, the person joining the waitlist for an appointment in 10 minutes when he is still 25 minutes away is thinking about his own desire to be served as soon as he arrives. It hasn’t occurred to this person that getting on the list at a more realistic time would allow the salon to serve someone else in the meantime.

Do you know why so many restaurants, especially those in high tourist areas, stopped taking reservations completely? It’s because people have a habit of making multiple reservations and deciding which one to keep once they get hungry without ever canceling the others. Can you imagine the stress of being a hostess with a line out the door and several empty tables being held for people who are enjoying a meal elsewhere? Can you imagine the amount of revenue lost with empty tables and lower turnover? Even with a waitlist, hostesses are still calling out names, heading out into the parking lot, or calling customers on the phone to locate the next people on the waitlist. If those people were told it would be a 50-minute wait, they may have gone shopping nearby, so they don’t hear their name being called when a table is ready in 20 minutes. When they arrive again at the 50-minute mark, will a table be available for them, or were they removed from the list?

What if everyone has the best intentions to arrive on time, but traffic makes the customer late? What if the service provider needs to spend additional time with a previous client and can’t avoid running late for the next one? What if you accidentally make a reservation at a location 300 miles away rather than across town? All of these things happen because humans simply aren’t perfect.

But what if we had some help? For instance, a proximity-based system can prevent people from joining a waitlist or making a reservation at a location that they physically can’t arrive at by that time. A check-in system alerts staff to your arrival and sends you a text when it’s your turn. That same check-in system could then remove you from any other lists you joined. Or if it is in the best interest of a group of service providers, joining one waitlist can prevent users from joining others. GPS data or in-app messaging tells staff when you’re running late so they can adjust the schedule. When their schedule is disrupted, the system communicates with you to help you manage your arrival time. Managers could receive alerts when large groups join the list so that they can make staffing adjustments. Floqque automates communication to reduce human error and labor so that when we get to the point of human interaction, it’s a completely positive experience.

Shortfall #4: Limited Functionality of Waitlist and Reservation Systems

Have you ever tried to join a waitlist from home, been told that there is no wait currently so you cannot be listed, and then arrive only to find yourself at the end of a very long line? Or have you noticed that some waitlists do not allow anyone to join before the business opens? Even worse, have you ever informed a hostess or receptionist that you joined the waitlist for a certain time, and they replied that they don’t monitor that system and didn’t record your name?

Chelsea Stylist

Today we had 6 people waiting at the door when we opened

I work for a nationwide hair salon franchise that offers an online check-in system.  Our online system doesn't allow people to check in until about 5 minutes after we open.  Because of this, we have between 3 and 9 people waiting at our front door when we open.

The problem with most waitlist and online reservation systems is that they are not user-friendly for providers or customers. All too often, service companies create apps that don’t account for all of the real-world needs, such as staff training and end-user friendliness. The result is inefficient technology that frustrates all users and actually makes scheduling more difficult. Systems get abandoned, but not turned off, and customers express less satisfaction in overall service.

Imagine a universal system that is focused on ease of use and functionality for providers and customers. The technology itself is doing most of the heavy lifting, which takes the burden off both the staff and customers. The provider’s staff has fewer surprises and uncertainties about which customers are walking through the door and when. Customers can manage their expectations, which results in higher satisfaction ratings and better reviews. The Floqque development team comes from a background of real-world application and holds to a customer focused philosophy that champions optimal functionality in all of our technology. Our goal is to make this technology so universal that scheduling your life becomes one of the easiest things you can do.

Revolutionizing Waitlist and Reservation Systems for Better Provider and Customer Experiences

What would you do with your time if you didn’t have to spend as much of it waiting for service? If you have resolved to create more simplicity and efficiency in your life for 2022 and beyond, then keep your eye on Floqque. We’re taking the service provider landscape by storm to improve both provider and customer experiences across the service industry.

Do you have a waitlist nightmare story? We want to hear it! Or do you have an application for this disruptive technology? We’re designing Floqque to be the most efficient and aggregated system for service providers, and we’d love to hear your wish list. Contact us to schedule a consultation about how Floqque can help you!

About the author

For more than 30 years, Mike has used his passion for finding innovative ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of businesses through the use of technology to redefine the way things are done.

He is the founder of Floqque.com and SoftwareKey.com.

When not saving the world from boring, mundane tasks, Mike likes to travel and can be seen performing burpees at sites around the world.

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