While waiting in lines at the motor vehicle department, barber shop, doctor’s office, bank, or drugstore, Alex Backer ’95 started dreaming of building code to solve this banal modern dilemma.
Backer's 2007 software solution was QLess, the result of his longing to reduce wait times in daily life.
Now adopted by hundreds of businesses and government agencies around the world, QLess provides real-time updates for customers waiting in line, sends them text alerts when their turn comes up, and frees up time for both customers and the staff who administer to them.
The result? According to QLess's website, the average customer at a theme park spends $5 more per hour while not waiting in line, $40 more in a casino, and $60 more in a shopping mall.
As studies have shown, line-waiting continues to be a major factor in customer satisfaction, reviews, and return rates. “Our vision is a world without lines,” Backer said in an interview, “and we are happy to see that what was revolutionary when we started is slowly but surely entering the mainstream, with more and more Fortune 500 companies, governments and universities adopting mobile wait management.”
Backer often cites MIT engineering systems professor Richard Larson, an influential thinker in the science of line waiting whose research has affected productivity improvements around the world.
“MIT gave me my first exposure to entrepreneurship on a serious scale, along with the confidence of knowing that the fact that nobody has done [something] before is no impediment,” he says.
Though QLess has had its share of competitors in this heyday of mobile apps, Backer is confident that having been the first, the code behind QLess has had time to evolve thanks to widespread use. Several industry awards for Backer and QLess attest to its prominence in the field.
“There is a big difference between sending a text message when a table is ready,” says Backer, “and building a scalable, automated, interactive, mobile wait management, marketing and CRM solution that works for every phone anywhere in the world via both SMS and voice calls, lets guests enter a virtual queue from their phone, keeps customers engaged during their wait, significantly reduces no-shows, gets 98% opt-in rate and has customers raving about it.”