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Faculty & Research


Queue Configurations and Operational Performance: An Interplay Between Customer Ownership and Queue Length Awareness (Revision 4 )

Working Paper
Problem Definition/Methodology: Contrary to traditional queueing theory, recent field studies in B2C services indicate that pooled queues may be less efficient than dedicated queues. The authors use two online experiments in the healthcare delivery context to replicate this finding and assess the interplay of servers’ customer ownership and queue length awareness as potential underlying mechanisms. They operationalize customer ownership as the extent to which servers feel ownership towards their customers and queue length awareness as the extent to which servers are able to accurately quantify their number of customers. Results: The authors find that, following a change in queue configuration, dedicated queues outperform pooled queues with respect to processing speed without sacrificing quality. The reduction in speed is partially mediated by the servers’ queue length awareness and partially suppressed by their ownership of customers in queue. The former is because servers turn out to be less likely to underestimate their load, which makes them work faster. The latter is because ownership of customers in queue may distract servers from the customer in service. When the queue configuration changes from a dedicated to a pooled one, the shorter processing times and higher levels of queue length awareness persist across the change, unlike the higher ownership of customers in the queue. Managerial implications: In discretionary service settings, switching to a dedicated queue is often beneficial in terms of operational performance, partly because the increased queue length awareness motivates servers to work faster; however, the increased degree of customer ownership of those in queue may distract them and result in a slowdown.

Professor of Technology and Operations Management