Mind the queue

December 12th, 2010

long line of people

Queue: where a line of people wait. The line of people itself is the queue. Do you mind the queue? We queue up everywhere. And we don’t think much about it, until the queue makes us wait longer than we would like to.

Where do we queue?

We queue for many things:

  • our daily commute,
  • to buy our groceries,
  • to buy fast food,
  • to get a haircut,
  • to buy clothes at a retail store,
  • to get technical support on the phone,
  • to get customer service on the phone,
  • to get an appointment with the cable company,
  • and on and on and on.

Life seems to be one big queue.

Of course, the queue is impacted by human beings. As many systems and technologies as we create they still require the input and oversight of human beings. And human beings are imperfect, and can only handle so much load. Humans only have so much capacity to process certain work functions. There are things that are technological that are not instant. And there are things executed mostly by humans that are not instant.

It takes a while to load a web page. And checking out groceries can be slow and tedious. One is tech based and one is human based. So the queue seems to be a problem we suffer from in all aspects of life, both technological as well as human.

Mortgage Queue

Ones that can be particularly frustrating are the queues involved in getting a mortgage. There are queues for:

  • locking in an interest rate which is usually input by a human,
  • ordering an appraisal (almost always done by a human),
  • the appraisal itself,
  • getting loan approval,
  • the preparation of closing documents,
  • etc.

All involve humans to a large degree, even though pieces of each of those processes are heavily automated. You still cannot get things done very quickly in the mortgage industry even with all of today’s technology.

And part of the problem with a queue is volume. If volume is slow or steady there is still always a queue. If volume is heavy then the queue gets absurd. With interest rates trending up now queue times should fall quite a bit.

But the year 2010 was a boom year for refinancing thanks to historically low interest rates. And people somehow did not equate heavy volume to causing long queues. And long queues mean enduring long wait times. I have constantly heard, “but why can’t they just ….”. Fill in almost anything you want to complete that sentence. Why can’t they just approve it by tomorrow? Can’t they just sign off on the loan approval conditions by end of today? Shouldn’t we be able to get an appraiser to come out in a few days?

How does an increase in business impact the queue?

When your volume of business goes up tenfold, that is a 1000% increase. You would think that people would understand that that is going to influence the queue. If your business goes up twofold that is a 100% increase. That also must have an effect on the queue. When a human being like an underwriter is used to underwriting 5 files a day, and then is suddenly tasked with 20 files a day, that is going to cause problems. If anyone saw the chaos that was the inside of the mortgage office in 2010 they would be horrified. Many files were flying around. And many demands being made. With human beings being in between all of the different processes, it was impossible for the queue not to be affected dramatically.

The point of this whole blog post is that we all need to consider circumstances of what it is that we are doing, buying, applying for, or asking help with. Then we need to consider those circumstances and weave them into our expectations of how long we expect to wait for the results.

Think about the math

I hear people complain constantly about holding for a customer service representative when the hold time is as little as 5 to 10 minutes. I wonder how many people in one day a customer service representative could process in customer service calls. 5? 20? 100? Think about it. If the average customer service phone call takes 6 minutes of questions and answers, that is 10 people an hour. That is 80 people a day working eight hours straight with no lunch. Could you solve 80 people’s problems a day, with a smile on your face? If you were a cashier at a retail store at Christmas checking out a mob of people who wanted to buy the latest Christmas gifts, could you do it quickly and efficiently without letting a queue develop? If you were a mortgage employee and were used to processing 15 files a month, and were asked to process 50 files a month, could you do without letting a long queue develop?

I would suggest all of us take a little more time and patience as we do things in our everyday routine that involves a queue. Let’s try and understand the circumstances that are causing the queue and exercise a little patience and understanding.

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Brian Martucci is a loan officer for Capital Bank Home Loans, a division of Capital Bank, N.A. He has been in the mortgage industry since 1986 and has served in a number of roles, including loan processor, loan officer, mortgage broker, branch manager, and vice president. Brian Martucci – NMLS# 185421. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Capital Bank Home Loans or Capital Bank. Capital Bank, N.A.- NMLS# 401599. Click here for the Capital Bank, N.A. “Privacy Policy”.

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