What Is a First-in-first-out (FIFO) Queue?

If you’ve stumbled onto this blog to check-in on the football, I’m afraid you’re in for a surprise. We’re talking about FIFO queues, not the latest news from FIFA. 

For anyone who’s still with us, keep reading to learn what first-in first-out (aka FIFO) queuing is and why it’s a great way to manage customers waiting for your services. 


Table of Contents


What is a FIFO queue?

Essentially, a first-in, first-out queue is managed on a first-come, first-served basis.. The acronym FIFO might sound complicated, but it’s just another way of referring to the typical queue management approach where customers who have been in the queue for a longer time take priority.

Qudini by Verint Queue Management Software uses the queue first-in, first-out principle to manage the online waiting line.

Other common queuing disciplines include SIRO (serve-in-random-order), LIFO (last-in, first-out) and prioritized. 

How does online FIFO queuing work ?

As with physical queuing, customers that join the virtual queue–whether via a store host, kiosk, weblink or even QR code–are served on a first-in, first-out basis. 

Virtual queuing providers like Qudini by Verint provide customers with a live queue position weblink. This allows them to check their position in the wait line in real-time, as seen in the example below. 

Learn more about the 12 Best Virtual Queue Management Systems for Retail


FIFO queuing online through Qudini by Verint queuing software interface on smartphone

Qudini by Verint’s award-winning Virtual Queue Management Software improves the FIFO queuing experience by enabling customers to check their current position in the queue in real-time.


Real life examples of first-in first-out queuing

If you’ve ever waited in line for something, chances are you were in a FIFO queue. It’s by far the most common type of queuing. 

Here’s some common queue first-in, first-out examples: 

  • Standing in line for a bus
  • Waiting to be seated at a popular restaurant
  • Waiting to speak to a teller in a bank
  • Queuing for a coffee

We could go on, but you get the picture.


Why is the FIFO queuing method used?

There are two key reasons first-in, first-out is the leading queuing discipline across retail and banking:


FIFO queuing is fair

Indulge me for a second by picturing a little scenario. 

You’ve been waiting in line patiently outside your favorite restaurant for forty-five minutes hoping to get a table. The host is just about to let you in but suddenly they pick out the group waiting behind you. Ten minutes later, they do the same thing, only this time they pick a couple who only just joined the queue. 

Frustrating, right? 

When there’s no rhyme or reason to how you manage the wait, customers become agitated. They may even walk out. 

Fortunately, first-in first-out queues prevent any kind of queue jumping and help to keep things fair. 


FIFO queuing makes the wait feel shorter

A key reason that first-in, first-out queuing is successful is because customers feel that the queue is organized, efficient and fair. Consequently, they’re more likely to perceive a shorter wait time. 

However, the opposite is true when your queues are disorganized. When customers feel that other shoppers are queue jumping, their perceived wait time increases dramatically. 

Ultimately, your customers are prepared to wait for as long as it is fair. Just don’t forget, it’s equally as important to make the queue feel short as it is to actually make it shorter. 


What are the other types of queuing?

FIFO isn’t the only way to manage your queues. Different industries, organizations and social settings call for different queue management approaches. 

Other common queuing methods include: 


Last-in, first-out queuing (LIFO)

With last-in, first-out queuing, the last person to join the queue gets served first. Now, I know you might be thinking that this is a ludicrous way to manage customers but there is a logic behind this approach.

In research published by the Science Nordic, Professor Lars Peter Østerdal of the University of South Denmark argues that LIFO is actually a better alternative to FIFO. 

On FIFO queuing, he said, “A lot of people have the incentive to join the queue early, which means that they stand in line for a long time. Of all the options available to them, this is the worst one.”

By contrast, when customers actually benefit from being the last in the queue, Østerdal argues walk-ins change their behavior. 

However, it’s hard to see how LIFO queuing would work in a real-life situation. The first shoppers to arrive would simply leave the queue and rejoin at the back (or not return at all). What could possibly be more frustrating than seeing shoppers who joined the queue after you served before you? 

LIFO might be best kept for programs that use the “Undo” button. If you want to undo your most recent change, you can easily do so. With FIFO, you’d have to undo all other changes beforehand. 


Priority queuing

Next up is priority queuing, which does pretty much what is says on the tin. Queuers are allocated a position in the wait line based on their allocated priority level. 

Priority queuing tends to be more commonplace in the healthcare sector. Evidently, an emergency case required quicker service. Someone who’s been in a life-threatening accident needs a doctor more urgently than someone who sprained their ankle. 

The travel sector is another prime example–passengers board planes at different times depending on their fare class. Some passengers pay extra for early-boarding privileges. Passengers who require senior air travel assistance can also board their plane early. 


Serve-in-random-order queuing

With SIRO queuing, customers are served in a completely random order. At any point, one customer is as likely to be served as the next, regardless of when they joined the queue. 

While serving customers at random sounds chaotic, there is a method to the madness. In fact, it can actually heighten the customer’s sense of fairness. If you’re hosting a raffle, tickets are drawn using the SIRO approach precisely because it’s random. Everyone has a chance of winning. 

Likewise, random queue management is often used for major sporting events like marathons and limited-edition product launches. 

If the online queue to buy a ticket for an exclusive event was over five hours long, many customers would be deterred. By contrast, you’d get more registrations if web visitors knew their chances of getting a ticket were the same as everyone else’s. 


Try Virtual Queue Management with Qudini by Verint

We’re the go-to Queue Management Software provider for leading enterprise retailers and banks across the world including Nike, Samsung and TUI. With real-time queuing technology to create a more transparent waiting experience, Qudini by Verint can help you to reduce walk-outs and boost conversion. 

To try our online FIFO Queue Management System, book a demo using the demo below. 

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