Research Highlights

Can More Lines Really Result in Less Waiting?

Mor Armony Headshot

To sum up, our prescription is that when servers are strategic and exhibit customer ownership, adopting a dedicated queue configuration tends to result in lower throughput times

Although at first glance it seems counterintuitive, recent existing research has shown that when a hospital emergency room stopped using a pooled line and instead used a dedicated-queue system where patients were assigned to particular doctors, total stay time did in fact decrease – by 39 minutes, no less. Dedicated-queue systems seem to not only increase efficiency, but may be music to the ears of those of us who are a bit more impatient than others. But what caused this decrease? Could it translate to other industries? Researchers at the NYU Stern School of Business, INSEAD and The Wharton School address these questions in their new paper, “Pooling Queues with Strategic Servers: The Effects of Customer Ownership.

In the paper, NYU Stern Vice Dean of Faculty Mor Armony and co-authors Guillaume Roels (INSEAD) and Hummy Song (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania) concluded that dedicated-queue systems will only decrease wait times in industries that are knowledge-intensive and that have high levels of customer ownership, i.e., when those providing the service feel that a customer is “theirs” and is a personal responsibility. 

Key takeaways include:
  • When servers show high levels of customer ownership, moving to dedicated queues can help minimize customer wait times.
  • Organizational culture plays a key role -- companies looking to decrease waiting times should look for ways to increase customer ownership (e.g., through incentives). 
“To sum up, our prescription is that when servers are strategic and exhibit customer ownership, adopting a dedicated queue configuration tends to result in lower throughput times,” write the authors. They further explain that these findings hold true across a range of service-oriented industries including medicine, tech and banking where servers have ample discretion over their rate of service.

This research is forthcoming in Operations Research.