At Fastaval I have worked as a volunteer for many year. For three of those years, I was the head of "Informationen" (The Information / "The Info"), which is the customer service organ that handles all kinds of internal and external customer service. One of the many exciting tasks was check-in - the very first thing every participant met, when they first arrived. It had to be perfect.
When I first started the check-in was essentially a one-stage process:
Each participant would arrive at The Info and talk to the first available team member, who would then help them with everything related to their participation. This would vary between participants. Some would require only that we ticked a box in our system and said hello, for others it would require taking payment, handing out documents, printing papers, finding badges, guidance for their participation, making changes to their registration and much more.
There were several problems with the above, most notably that it was easy to forget a step. If this happened, the participant would have to rejoin the queue to fix any problems, causing severe delays and extended queue times.
Another critical issue was that each participant would sometimes get to just stand and wait, while the helper organised all their things. This would cause great frustration to some and lead to arguments, especially because people often arrive tired after a long journey, with short tempers brewing.
First and foremost I wanted to make sure that there was always someone with each participant, so they were never left alone feeling lost.
Furthermore we wanted to increase the throughput and reduce queue times.
We created a conveyor-like system, where each participant would start at station 1 and move along in steps. At each station we had the option of removing the participant from the standard queue and refer them to our "troubleshooting desk", in case something needed special attention. With 90% of people flowing straight through the system this was a huge improvement. Here is a rough outline of the stations:
Previously all of this would be done by one person and during quiet times we would still combine it all with 2-3 helpers.
It was when it was busy however that we saw the real improvements and sadly we never made it to more than 100 participants checked in per hour, because we never had more than that. Feedback from my team was that we could probable handle 150 if we had to, and from there just scale it up with more helpers.
Most importantly: No queues, and no participants left waiting without help.
The two-pronged attack of removing the outliers from the main queue and improving the flow helped us achieve this. Not everyone will fit "on the conveyor-belt", ever, but we managed.
This was achieved with a lot of help from IT-based solutions designed based on our requirements, but created with lots of help and love from our amazing IT guys who couldn't live without.
I cannot and will not claim full credit for any of the above. While I have played a key role in many and been involved in them all, the value created was done with the help of other volunteers. It is a delight to work alongside them all and I have enjoyed their help and input along our many journeys a lot. Without my team I would have achieved nothing over the years and I am very grateful for each and every member who have helped us achieve these and more goals.