Last come, first served – efficiency over ethicacy


So I have toiled with this Idea for a while now. This has only come to my attention lately due to my current backlog of work both home-wise and work-work-wise.

Is a “last come, first served” customer service model more efficient than the standard boring old “first come, first served” model? I think the answer to that depends on more information.

In order to first set the stage, we must understand the settings for this analysis. Assuming you have enough bandwidth to process all requests, then a last come, first served method would not be noticed by anyone since you would rarely have any backlog of tasks. Either model would be the same. So let’s be clear here that I’m talking about, specifically, when there is more work to do than you have time for.

Let’s start by recognizing the benefits of the last come, first served model in a backlogged scenario:

Some of the tasks you don’t get to will actually resolve themselves.

So let’s elaborate on that. If a task came first, but then other tasks came in, so this one has fallen out of your sight, then by the time you actually get to it, it may already have been dealt with.

Many people will ask for assistance from more than one resource … So it’s actually very common of some tasks to be resolved by the time you get to them … Using the first come, first served model would actually bog you down on something that could usually resolve itself.

Small and simple tasks always get done

On a last come, first served model, the small simple tasks don’t get interrupted (because they’re small and simple). This means that you always appear to be very responsive.

A person that sends you a small and simple task will expect you to be able to complete this very quickly. If you enforced a “first come, first served” model, these small and simple tasks could take you days to get to if you, all of a sudden, got stuck on a large task.

On the other hand a person sending you a large task would not expect this quickly. Thus, buying you some reasonable delay on these.

Important tasks will be reinserted into the line by those who really care about those tasks.

If someone believes the task to be important, and it hasn’t gotten done in their preferable amount of time, they will let you know.

This is the task cutting itself back into line. In a last come first served model, this means this task is back on your priority.

This is a self governed task list. By those who really need you to do things.

So efficiency-wise, this is the most effective way of getting things done (GTD).

One last benefit:

The tasks that keep you focused, (i.e. the things you like) will not be interupted.

Typically, I have a few things in my day that I really enjoy (if you don’t have this. Quit your job, now)

These things have a way of keeping you focused. It’s like tunnel vision for me. This means that some tasks, even though they may be last come, will wait a bit. Until you come out of your eagerness to complete whatever it is that you were so focused on. This is good.

These 4 important scenarios is what makes this “last come, first served” mantra so appealing. Obviously this may not apply to all types of businesses. Your mileage may vary.

One particularly obvious flaw is any business that makes it plain obvious that you are treating the service as “last come first served.”

This means any business where the customer actually stands in line … This brings about ethical issues as well as, game theory issues; “do people really know what is best for the group and themselves”.

I’ll leave it at that for now, let me know what you think in the comments!

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