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System and method for internet-based customer check-in

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Title: System and method for internet-based customer check-in.
Abstract: An internet-based system and method allows customers to remotely check-in to a wait list for a no-appointment first listed-first served business. A location associated with a customer is received and an interactive map displays multiple icons with each icon corresponding to a location of the business. A dynamically updated estimated wait time for the wait list at each business location is displayed. A customer selection of a location at which to receive a service from the business is received by a selection of the icon representing the business and the customer is added to the wait list at the location. ...


Inventor: PETER KAISER
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120109696 - Class: 705 5 (USPTO) - 05/03/12 - Class 705 
Data Processing: Financial, Business Practice, Management, Or Cost/price Determination > Automated Electrical Financial Or Business Practice Or Management Arrangement >Reservation, Check-in, Or Booking Display For Reserved Space

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120109696, System and method for internet-based customer check-in.

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FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to a internet-based customer check-in system and method and more particularly to an internet-based customer check-in system and method that provides customers with more accurate estimated wait times for services at a plurality of locations shown on a map-based geographical display in real time.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many businesses, such as no-appointment hair salons, offer services to customers on a first-come, first-served basis and do not accept appointments. Because of this, customers typically do not know how long of a wait it will be to receive a desired service until arrival at the business location. If the wait is too long, the customer may decide to forego the service altogether. Although the customer can call ahead to learn an estimated wait time, many businesses do not allow a customer to have the customer\'s name put on the wait list until the customer enters the store. In addition, some businesses have numerous locations situated relatively near each other to which a customer has the option of going. However, a customer cannot practically determine which location will be able provide the desired service the soonest, as this would entail visiting each location or making numerous phone calls to inquire about each location\'s wait time. In addition, the wait times customers receive are simply guesses by the employees typically based solely on the number of customers currently on the waiting list. Due to variations in the time it takes different employees to perform different services, such guesses are usually grossly inaccurate.

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

A internet-based customer check-in system and method allows customers to view estimated wait times at a plurality of service providing locations in order to select a location to visit based on the most convenient location and the best estimated wait time for the customer. A map based graphical display of service locations within the vicinity of the entered address and an estimated wait time to have the requested service performed at each location are presented to the customer. The customer can select a desired location to be placed on the location\'s no-appointment, first listed-first sensed waiting list by business of a location by selecting an icon on the map representing that location.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The invention may be more completely understood in consideration of the following detailed description of various embodiments of the invention in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is flowchart of steps taken by a customer to join a waiting list using a web-based customer check-in system according to the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 is a screenshot of a welcome page of a web-based customer check-in system according to the present disclosure.

FIG. 3 is a screenshot of a wait time display page of a web-based customer check-in system according to the present disclosure.

FIG. 4 is a screenshot of a customer information page of a web-based customer check-in system according to the present disclosure.

FIG. 5 is a screenshot of a confirmation and directions page of a web-based customer check-in system according to the present disclosure.

FIG. 6 is a screenshot of a store interface of a web-based customer check-in system according to the present disclosure.

FIG. 7 is a flowchart of steps taken according to a wait time algorithm according to the present disclosure.

While the invention is amenable to various modifications and alternative forms, specifics thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will be described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the intention is not to limit the invention to the particular embodiments described. On the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 depicts the steps 100 taken by a customer to use a web-based customer check-in system according to the present disclosure. Initially, the customer accesses the internet and navigates to a business\'s website to access its web-based customer check-in welcome page 202, depicted in FIG. 2, at step 102. The welcome page 202 can provide instructions 204 regarding the operation of the web-based customer check-in system for new customers. At step 104, the customer can enter an address into a text box 206 on the welcome page 202 so that the system can locate service locations of the business near the address. The address can be the customer\'s home, office, or any other reference address from which the customer wishes to find nearby service locations.

After the customer has entered an address, the system displays the nearest locations 210 and estimated wait times 212 at each location 210. The customer can view the results on a wait time display page 208, depicted in FIG. 3, at step 106. Alternatively, the wait time display page 208 can automatically be displayed when a customer searches for the service or the business in a search engine, such as Google™. The business locations 210 displayed can be determined based on a designated number of locations or based on all locations within a certain distance of the entered address, such as, for example, 10 miles. Locations can alternatively be displayed based on wait times, such as, for example, all locations within a certain distance whose wait times are under 20 minutes. The locations 210 can be displayed graphically on a map 214 showing each location 210 relative to each other and the entered address. The graphical display can utilize, for example, Google™ Maps.

Estimated wait times can be determined according to the steps 300 of a wait time algorithm, as shown in FIG. 7. The algorithm first determines which employees of the business are currently available to perform services at the location at step 302. This can be done by having the employees “clock in” when they are working and having them “clock out” when their shifts are over or they go on break. Next, the remaining service time for each employee who is currently serving a customer is calculated at step 304. This calculation is estimated by first averaging historical service times for the particular employee performing the service based on the type of service performed and other relevant factors in the industry, such as, for example, the sex of the customer in the hair salon industry (because services performed on females typically take longer than similar services performed on males due to average hair length). The remaining service time is then calculated by subtracting the elapsed time for the service from the total estimated service time. After estimating the remaining service time for each employee, the employees are placed in order of soonest availability to serve another customer at step 306. Employees who are not currently serving a customer are therefore at the top of the list. Service time is then calculated for each customer on the waiting list at step 308. This is done by pairing the first customer on the waiting list with the first available employee and determining the estimated service time for the employee to perform the particular service for the particular customer. That service time is then added to that employee\'s total remaining service time and the list of available employees is reordered. This process is repeated for each customer on the waiting list and for each new customer who joins the waiting list. The wait time for each customer joining the waiting list is the shortest remaining service time for an active employee.

The above wait time calculation can be done continuously, or performed at regular intervals, so the wait time is always up-to-date. Changes that are taken into account in updating the wait time include: customers getting served (moving from the wait list to the service list), services being completed for customers, customers\' desired service getting changed, customers leaving before being served, employees leaving and/or returning based on shift times and breaks, and services moving closer to completion as time elapses. If an employee is serving more than one customer at a time, then only the longest service time is considered in the calculation. The algorithm can also take into account customers who appear to have left the store by removing those customers from the calculation. If a customer should have been served (there was an employee available and the customer was the next one in line), but was not, the customer can be excluded from the calculation after a predetermined period, such as, for example, ten minutes. The calculation can also ignore employees who appear to be absent or otherwise unavailable. If an employee is clocked in and customers are waiting, but the employee is not serving any customers, the employee can be excluded after a predetermined period.

The wait time at each location can therefore be calculated in a statistically significant manner based on measured historical data. This is in contrast to the “gut-feeling” type of wait time typically given based solely on the number of customers ahead on the waiting list. Calculating wait times based on historical data allows customers to receive more accurate wait times. The historical data can be updated each time an employee performs a service, thereby constantly improving the accuracy of the wait time predictions.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120109696 A1
Publish Date
05/03/2012
Document #
13327994
File Date
12/16/2011
USPTO Class
705/5
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
06Q10/02
Drawings
8



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