“Our business is about technology, yes. But it’s also about operations and customer relationships. ”
Today, we posted this quote from Michael Dell, CEO and Founder of Dell, Inc., on some of our social media platforms. I thought it was a great reminder, especially in our industry. We get so caught up in the technology that we sometimes forget that the technology should ENHANCE our operations and customer relationships, not diminish them. This is an important factor, especially with the use of self-service technology, whether it is automated answering/message systems or call centers in lieu of a physical presence in-store, DIY solutions or videos to pre-empt service calls thereby reducing call queues and wait times or self-service systems including kiosks, that allow customers to check in/out or pay for goods and services without the need for assistance from a customer representative.
Can you remember when there was no other alternative to standing in line at the bank? I’m sure most of us can’t remember the days of sitting in our cars while our fuel was pumped, windscreen cleaned and tire pressure checked. We even paid at the car window. First, Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) made life a little easier, and then consumers never flinched when self-service stations became the norm, and now we have the alternative of self-service systems including kiosks to conduct just about every transaction.
It almost makes the answer to my question above seem obvious. If we didn’t look back then why should we do so now, as self-service options continue to increase and become the norm? The evolution has been taking place since the ‘60s and hasn’t stopped since then.
According to the 2013 North American Self-Service Kiosks Market Study, prepared by the IHL Group, “Transactions at Self-Service Kiosks are growing better than 7% per year in North America with transactions expected to grow past $1.0 Trillion per year through the devices by 2014.” This isn’t surprising, with many industries adopting kiosk technology in an effort to provide a more efficient, easier customer experience. Customers are also adapting to these systems because, they too, seek convenience and efficiency, especially now that we live in a world where time is a premium and it just isn’t practical to spend extended periods of time on tasks that could be completed in a much shorter time.
Some of the industries adopting this technology include:
• The banking industry
It can be argued that the trend started in this industry, and it continues to provide automated, self-service solutions to customers. The kiosks that are utilized are quite similar to ATMs but are capable of providing additional services and transactions that once required interaction with a teller to be completed. Their functions include cashing checks, dispensing money orders, printing official checks, paying bills and withdrawing cash (in increments other than $20 bills) along with other features. The kiosks are either located on-site, in the branch lobby or off-site in a remote location (such as a convenience store).
• The airport industry
This industry has been using kiosks in a number of ways. Many major airports have adopted kiosk systems that assist in making the security check on travelers a lot faster. There are currently 34 airports that have Global Entry kiosks with 98% of all air travelers passing through these checkpoints. The program has been around since 2008 and allows pre-approved travelers to use the kiosks upon their return to the US. In Chicago, these machines have helped shave wait times by a third for arriving passengers. It is hoped that they will also be installed at JFK, one of the nation’s busiest airports – a move that is being strongly advocated by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. Read more here.
Airlines have also adopted the technology to facilitate easy check in for customers. They are usually used by specific airlines or are sometimes shared by multiple airlines, allowing passengers to book tickets, change reservations or check in.
• The hotel industry
Check in services are not only unique to the airline industry, so it’s definitely not a surprise that check in kiosks are also used in the hotel industry. These kiosks also facilitate guest check out and became more widespread with the travel downturn a few years ago, as a cheaper alternative to staffing.
These are just three examples of industries that have fully adopted the use of self-service kiosks and there are many more. It is a technological advancement that has been adopted by companies out of a need to serve customers better while reducing costs and embraced by customers seeking convenience and efficient use of their time.
So the answer to the question? Self-service kiosks will be here as long as the demand and need for them exist, but companies must remember that a better customer experience should always be the goal…Providing convenience to your customers while ensuring it enhances, not diminishes your relationship with your customer. It should be an added benefit/bonus to the customer, not an experience that makes their interaction with your company seem cold and impersonal.