On the modelling and performance measurement of service networks with heterogeneous customers

Ryan Palmer, Martin Utley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


Service networks are common throughout the modern world, yet understanding how their individual services effect each other and contribute to overall system performance can be difficult. An important metric in these systems is the quality of service. This is an often overlooked measure when modelling and relates to how customers are affected by a service. Presented is a novel perspective for evaluating the performance of multi-class queueing networks through a combination of operational performance and service quality—denoted the “flow of outcomes”. Here, quality is quantified by customers moving between or remaining in classes as a result of receiving service or lacking service. Importantly, each class may have different flow parameters, hence the positive/negative impact of service quality on the system’s operational performance is captured. A fluid–diffusion approximation for networks of stochastic queues is used since it allows for several complex flow dynamics: the sequential use of multiple services; abandonment and possible rejoin; reuse of the same service; multiple customers classes; and, class and time dependent parameters. The scalability of the approach is a significant benefit since, the modelled systems may be relatively large, and the included flow dynamics may render the system analytically intractable or computationally burdensome. Under the right conditions, this method provides a framework for quickly modelling large time-dependent systems. This combination of computational speed and the “flow of outcomes” provides new avenues for the analysis of multi-class service networks where both service quality and operational efficiency interact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-268
Number of pages32
JournalAnnals of Operations Research
Early online date2 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

The acceptance date for this record is provisional and based upon the month of publication for the article.


  • queueing
  • multi-class networks
  • system performance
  • fluid and diffusion approximation
  • flow of outcomes


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