Reducing customer wait times with Check the Line

With an on-the-go lifestyle, customers are looking for ways to reduce waiting in lines.

phone-imageWeb cameras at King County’s Algona, Bow Lake, Factoria, Houghton, Renton and Shoreline recycling and transfer stations help customers plan their trips using www.kingcounty.gov/checktheline, which shows the line of vehicles waiting to enter the facilities and facility wait times.

Solid Waste Division (SWD) Special Projects Manager Alejandra Calderon was the lead on the project, and oversaw implementation and outreach of the web cams at the six transfer stations.

Alejandra emphasized the practicality of the mobile-friendly website and its functionality: “What we wanted to do was improve the customer experience at our transfer stations. By installing a web camera that shows the line leading up to the scale house allows customers to go online and check how long the line is. We wanted to give customers the ability to make a more informed decision about when they should make the trip to dispose of their garbage and recycling.”

With a mobile-responsive web layout, customers can enjoy a seamless experience from desktop view to mobile view. Photos of transfer station entrances are updated every 60 seconds and feature a disposal wait time after weigh-in. Customers can determine if visiting another facility might potentially cut down on their wait time.

“It’s just a really customer service focused aspect; we wanted to make it easier for them and also drive some more information online. This platform works well on a mobile phone as well, so you can check it right before you leave, just to make that really good decision,” added Alejandra enthusiastically.

In addition to installing web cameras at the six urban locations and displaying wait times on the website, SWD also installed reader boards outside of the scale house to inform customer of the average wait time, “from when they weigh in, to the tipping floor – which is where you dump your garbage – dump, get back in, come out and weigh out at the scale” said Alejandra. Customers are charged for the weight difference of the loaded vehicle to when it’s empty.

“Our goal was to speed up the time people spent at our transfer station,” Alejandra added. “That included having our transfer station operators help doing some unloading for people that had difficulties; it included putting up signs at transfer stations with wait times.”

Shoreline Recycling & Transfer Station

Shoreline Recycling and Transfer Station

To get the word out about the new service, Alejandra and SWD Communications Specialist II Matt Manguso teamed up for outreach efforts. Alejandra and Matt worked together to develop paid Facebook ads, in both English and Spanish, that introduced the service to customers in King County and encouraged them to “Go Online to Check the Line.” Other outreach efforts included sponsoring radio traffic reports and announcing the new service through newsletters, press releases, and social media.

“We really wanted to inform as many people as possible about this new service,” said Matt. “The Facebook ads and radio sponsorships allowed us to get this message out to a wide-range of King County residents and our customers, and since the service is on our website, it made sense to focus a lot of efforts digitally.”

Since launching the web cam and online service, Alejandra notes that communication efforts are beginning to pay off, but it will be a slow process to convert more people into users: “we’re starting to hear people are familiar with it, but I think it’s one of those things that will take a while for people to catch on to. But, it’s a great tool because our stations fluctuate a lot on demand and how many people are using it at the time.”

Variables such as weather, time of year and traffic congestion can trigger fluctuations in wait times, so in order to avoid long lines at transfer stations, customers are encouraged to make use of Check the Line tool.

“It’s just a good tool, I think, for people who use it on a normal basis. Small businesses especially will find it helpful. For example if a landscaper is getting ready to head to a station they can check the line on their phone and decide whether they should go to the station now because the line is short, or do a few more houses and wait for the wait time to decrease,” said Alejandra.

In addition to taking on a proactive approach to boost customer experience, Alejandra mentioned that this service can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by keeping cars off the roads during peak times. Using technological enhancements to improve county services, while making a conscious effort to protect the environment, showcases why King County is a Best-Run Government.

Alejandra attributes the fruition of the website and launch on October 1, 2016 to KCIT: “We really need to give credit to the people we worked with at KCIT, it was definitely a partnership. They do websites, they do all that. They took our ideas of how we wanted the site to look, how it should function, and did an incredible job of bringing it to life. They also worked really hard to make sure everything was ready to go by our launch date.

Camera feeds, disposal times, facility locations, hours of operation, and directions can be found at www.kingcounty.gov/checktheline.