- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
Many service systems provide queue length information to customers, thereby allowing customers to choose among many options of service. However, queue length information is often delayed, and it is often not provided in real time. Recent work by Dong et al. [Dong J, Yom-Tov E, Yom-Tov GB (2018) The impact of delay announcements on hospital network coordination and waiting times. Management Sci. 65(5):1969–1994.] explores the impact of these delays in an empirical study in U.S. hospitals. Work by Pender et al. [Pender J, Rand RH, Wesson E (2017) Queues with choice via delay differential equations. Internat. J. Bifurcation Chaos Appl. Sci. Engrg. 27(4):1730016-1–1730016-20.] uses a two-dimensional fluid model to study the impact of delayed information and determine the exact threshold under which delayed information can cause oscillations in the dynamics of the queue length. In this work, we confirm that the fluid model analyzed by Pender et al. [Pender J, Rand RH, Wesson E (2017) Queues with choice via delay differential equations. Internat. J. Bifurcation Chaos Appl. Sci. Engrg. 27(4):1730016-1–1730016-20.] can be rigorously obtained as a functional law of large numbers limit of a stochastic queueing process, and we generalize their threshold analysis to arbitrary dimensions. Moreover, we prove a functional central limit theorem for the queue length process and show that the scaled queue length converges to a stochastic delay differential equation. Thus, our analysis sheds new insight on how delayed information can produce unexpected system dynamics.more » « less
We study the problem of optimal information sharing in the context of a service system. In particular, we consider an unobservable single server queue offering a service at a fixed price to a Poisson arrival of delay-sensitive customers. The service provider can observe the queue, and may share information about the state of the queue with each arriving customer. The customers are Bayesian and strategic, and incorporate any information provided by the service provider into their prior beliefs about the queue length before making the decision whether to join the queue or leave without obtaining service. We pose the following question: which signaling mechanism and what price should the service provider select to maximize her revenue? We formulate this problem as an instance of Bayesian persuasion in dynamic settings. The underlying dynamics make the problem more difficult because, in contrast to static settings, the signaling mechanism adopted by the service provider affects the customers' prior beliefs about the queue (given by the steady state distribution of the queue length in equilibrium). The core contribution of this work is in characterizing the structure of the optimal signaling mechanism. We summarize our main results as follows. (1) Structural characterization: Using a revelation-principle style argument, we find that it suffices to consider signaling mechanisms where the service provider sends a binary signal of "join" or "leave", and under which the equilibrium strategy of a customer is to follow the service provider's recommended action. (2) Optimality of threshold policies: For a given fixed price for service, we use the structural characterization to show that the optimal signaling mechanism can be obtained as a solution to a linear program with a countable number of variables and constraints. Under some mild technical conditions on the waiting costs, we establish that there exists an optimal signaling mechanism with a threshold structure, where service provider sends the "join" signal if the queue length is below a threshold, and "leave" otherwise. (In addition, at the threshold, the service provider randomizes.) For the special case of linear waiting costs, we derive an analytical expression for the optimal threshold i terms of the two branches of the Lambert-W function. (3) Revenue comparison: Finally, we show that with the optimal choice of the fixed price and using the corresponding optimal signaling mechanism, the service provider can achieve the same revenue as with the optimal state-dependent pricing mechanism in a fully-observable queue. This implies that in settings where state-dependent pricing is not feasible, the service provider can effectively use optimal signaling (with the optimal fixed price) to achieve the same revenue.more » « less
Problem definition: We study scheduling multi-class impatient customers in parallel server queueing systems. At the time of arrival, customers are identified as being one of many classes, and the class represents the service and patience time distributions as well as cost characteristics. From the system’s perspective, customers of the same class at time of arrival get differentiated on their residual patience time as they wait in queue. We leverage this property and propose two novel and easy-to-implement multi-class scheduling policies. Academic/practical relevance: Scheduling multi-class impatient customers is an important and challenging topic, especially when customers’ patience times are nonexponential. In these contexts, even for customers of the same class, processing them under the first-come, first-served (FCFS) policy is suboptimal. This is because, at time of arrival, the system only knows the overall patience distribution from which a customer’s patience value is drawn, and as time elapses, the estimate of the customer’s residual patience time can be further updated. For nonexponential patience distributions, such an update indeed reveals additional information, and using this information to implement within-class prioritization can lead to additional benefits relative to the FCFS policy. Methodology: We use fluid approximations to analyze the multi-class scheduling problem with ideas borrowed from convex optimization. These approximations are known to perform well for large systems, and we use simulations to validate our proposed policies for small systems. Results: We propose a multi-class time-in-queue policy that prioritizes both across customer classes and within each class using a simple rule and further show that most of the gains of such a policy can be achieved by deviating from within-class FCFS for at most one customer class. In addition, for systems with exponential patience times, our policy reduces to a simple priority-based policy, which we prove is asymptotically optimal for Markovian systems with an optimality gap that does not grow with system scale. Managerial implications: Our work provides managers ways of improving quality of service to manage parallel server queueing systems. We propose easy-to-implement policies that perform well relative to reasonable benchmarks. Our work also adds to the academic literature on multi-class queueing systems by demonstrating the joint benefits of cross- and within-class prioritization.
Funding: A. Bassamboo received financial support from the National Science Foundation [Grant CMMI 2006350]. C. (A.) Wu received financial support from the Hong Kong General Research Fund [Early Career Scheme, Project 26206419].
Supplemental Material: The online appendix is available at https://doi.org/10.1287/msom.2023.1190 .
In mechanism design, the firm has an advantage over its customers in its knowledge of the state of the system, which can affect the utilities of all players. This poses the question: how can the firm utilize that information (and not additional financial incentives) to persuade customers to take actions that lead to higher revenue (or other firm utility)? When the firm is constrained to "cheap talk," and cannot credibly commit to a manner of signaling, the firm cannot change customer behavior in a meaningful way. Instead, we allow firm to commit to how they will signal in advance. Customers can then trust the signals they receive and act on their realization. This thesis contains the work of three papers, each of which applies information design to service systems and online markets. We begin by examining how a firm could signal a queue's length to arriving, impatient customers in a service system. We show that the choice of an optimal signaling mechanism can be written as a infinite linear program and then show an intuitive form for its optimal solution. We show that with the optimal fixed price and optimal signaling, a firm can generate the same revenue as it could with an observable queue and length-dependent variable prices. Next, we study demand and inventory signaling in online markets: customers make strategic purchasing decisions, knowing the price will decrease if an item does not sell out. The firm aims to convince customers to buy now at a higher price. We show that the optimal signaling mechanism is public, and sends all customers the same information. Finally, we consider customers whose ex ante utility is not simply their expected ex post utility, but instead a function of its distribution. We bound the number of signals needed for the firm to generate their optimal utility and provide a convex program reduction of the firm's problem.more » « less
We develop a robust queueing network analyzer algorithm to approximate the steady‐state performance of a single‐class open queueing network of single‐server queues with Markovian routing. The algorithm allows nonrenewal external arrival processes, general service‐time distributions and customer feedback. The algorithm is based on a decomposition approximation, where each flow is partially characterized by its rate and a continuous function that measures the stochastic variability over time. This function is a scaled version of the variance‐time curve, called the index of dispersion for counts (IDC). The required IDC functions for the external arrival processes can be calculated from the model primitives or estimated from data. Approximations for the IDC functions of the internal flows are calculated by solving a set of linear equations. The theoretical basis is provided by heavy‐traffic limits for the flows established in our previous papers. A robust queueing technique is used to generate approximations of the mean steady‐state performance at each queue from the IDC of the total arrival flow and the service specification at that queue. The algorithm's effectiveness is supported by extensive simulation studies.