The Psychology of Virtual Queue: When Waiting Feels Less Like Waiting

44 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2021

See all articles by Kejia Hu

Kejia Hu

Vanderbilt University - Operations Management

Xun Xu

California State University, Stanislaus

Ao Qu

Vanderbilt University

Date Written: September 28, 2021


Problem definition: Customers typically judge a service's waiting based on their perception, which is often longer than the actual waiting time. Thus, managing perceived waiting time is key for service providers and leads to various psychology-based approaches, including a rising star -- Virtual Queue (VQ). VQ allows customers to join a queue for services remotely through a mobile app or online portal and receive frequent updates about the remaining waiting time and queue position. In this research, we investigate the impact of VQ on customers' waiting complaints in two stages: the pre-process period (waiting before service) and the in-process period (waiting during service), and their overall satisfaction. Methodology: We use a text mining approach based on deep learning to extract waiting complaints in the two stages from over 0.72 million online customer reviews covering major U.S. casual dining chain restaurants from February 2015 to February 2019. Then we conduct difference-in-differences regressions facilitated by propensity score matching to estimate the impact of VQ on customer complaints in the two waiting stages and overall satisfaction. Results: We find that VQ reduces customers' pre-process waiting complaints and does not lead to positive spillover on in-process waiting complaints. VQ also enhances customers' overall satisfaction with the service. In addition, the impacts of VQ become effective from the first year of its implementation and remain unchanged afterward. We find that service providers who face high substitutability or offer low-value service are benefited most from VQ. Managerial implications: Our study encourages service providers to implement VQ for managing customers' perceived pre-process waiting time without fearing backfire on in-process waiting. VQ also helps service providers generate positive word-of-mouth through improved customers' overall satisfaction reflected online. Judging based on a service's substitutability and value, service providers can determine whether to implement VQ in their best interest.

Keywords: virtual queue, perceived waiting time, customer complaints, customer satisfaction, online customer reviews

Suggested Citation

Hu, Kejia and Xu, Xun and Qu, Ao, The Psychology of Virtual Queue: When Waiting Feels Less Like Waiting (September 28, 2021). Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Kejia Hu

Vanderbilt University - Operations Management ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Xun Xu (Contact Author)

California State University, Stanislaus ( email )

Turlock, CA 95382
United States

Ao Qu

Vanderbilt University ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

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