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Title: Optimally Scheduling Heterogeneous Impatient Customers

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 .

 
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Award ID(s):
2006350
NSF-PAR ID:
10469789
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;  
Publisher / Repository:
INFORMS
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Manufacturing & Service Operations Management
Volume:
25
Issue:
3
ISSN:
1523-4614
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1066 to 1080
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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