Kiosks have been mentioned quite often in the news lately, from Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) like Panera and McDonalds adopting the technology, to New York City’s conversion of their iconic phone booths to Wi-Fi Kiosks. These are just a few examples, but for a long time, interactive kiosks have been in use or could be found in many places we go to everyday and have been making our lives a lot easier; you just may not have realized.
One of the basic uses of kiosks is to provide information, whether about a company, a service, an event or location. Information kiosks can be used anywhere information needs to be disseminated, but many are used in museums, malls or lobbies. They can also be used to provide internet access or Wi-Fi to patrons or customers. They often take the form of interactive signage that utilize wayfinding applications. (We will discuss wayfinding kiosks in more detail in Part 2 of this blog). A great example is the information kiosks at Frankfurt airport that read boarding passes and direct passengers to where they need to be.
Companies often use information kiosks to communicate with employees. These human resource kiosks, in addition to providing company information, give employees access to administrative forms such as leave requests, employee manuals, insurance information or even internal training sessions. They can also be used to access the company’s intranet. A great example of the use of human resource kiosks can be seen here.
The use of kiosks to provide human resource services can also be extended to job applicants as kiosks provide a convenient way to accept job applications. Prospective candidates can enter their information at kiosks placed at the company’s head office or in the case of retail, at the location with the job vacancy.
The popularity of kiosks is probably as a direct result of their self-service applications. In a world where time is precious and consumers are more ‘hands on’, many users prefer having the option of conducting business or paying for services via a machine. It is one of the reasons kiosks can be found in many retail locations.
Retail kiosks, which are often confused with Retail Merchandising units which can also be found at malls with novelty items for sale, are manned units and can be considered mini stores. The retail kiosks we are referring to are electronic units that can be used at stores to accept payments, issue gift/loyalty cards or provide a catalog of a store’s inventory, making it easier for customers to peruse available items and request out of stock items or additional models and colors that may be available at other store locations. It eliminates the need for them to drive to other branches, as orders can be delivered to the location of their choice. It also provides a great opportunity to collect customer data via surveys or purchase history to inform future marketing campaigns or offers.
These kiosks can also be used to offer additional services including payment of store credit cards or utility bills, sale updates and coupons or a gift registry. It often eliminates the need to have additional staff for these services and are conveniently accessible after store hours. Some of these services can provide operators with additional revenue through transaction/service fees.
Many of the retail self-service applications mentioned above, can be used in other industries including hospitality, healthcare, airports and airlines and restaurants. Hotels and airports use kiosks to provide a more efficient way of checking in, allowing travelers to avoid the frustration of long lines.
Self-service check in has also now been extended to the healthcare industry to assist in patient management. Patients are now allowed to check in on arrival at a doctor’s office or medical facility allowing front desk staff to easily access their information while eliminating the need for excessive paperwork.
Self-service checkout kiosks, as mentioned in our opening paragraph, are also gaining popularity at restaurants. The goal is to make ‘fast’ food even faster by allowing customers to place their orders via a kiosk, ensuring they get exactly what they want on their order, without standing in line. It still remains to be seen if they truly provide a faster service, as orders still have to be fulfilled by servers which still leaves room for human error as well as variations in the speed of service.
Self-checkout kiosks are not only used for fast food, but also for food purchases at supermarkets and micro markets. Both allow customers to access goods and scan and pay for them at the kiosk. It eliminates the need to stand in line and in the case of micro markets, provides a healthy, quick lunch option for workers.
Kiosks provide many benefits to both the businesses that operate them, as well as to end users. Hence the reason they are so widely used. Some of the benefits of kiosks include:
• An enhanced customer service experience
• They facilitate the collection and management of customer data
• They provide value-added services
• They allow extended service beyond standard store hours
• They almost always provide a positive Return on Investment (ROI)
• They decrease wait times for customers
• They assist in reducing employee hiring and training costs
• They provide a great avenue for product marketing and company branding
These are just a few of the benefits of kiosks. We will continue to explore additional services available via kiosks for various industries in Part 2 of this blog.