Monthly Archives: September 2013

Is there a future for self-service kiosks?

“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:

 

 

 

Slabb's X6 kiosk model for USBank

Slabb’s X6 kiosk model for USBank

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Global Entry Kiosk

Global Entry Kiosk

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.

 

 

 

Slabb's X6 kiosk for Hyatt Regency

Slabb’s X6 kiosk for Hyatt Regency

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.

Internet Kiosks and their Role in the Evolution of the Internet Café

I remember when I had to wait in line to use a computer at an internet café. It was often my second option if the computers at my University’s library were occupied, which was normally the case close to final exams when end-of-term projects were due. I guess I’m showing my age.

 

 
We have certainly come a long way since then, but it made me wonder if internet cafés were still utilized and if so, on what scale? I guess not having to use them myself anymore, they’re just no longer on my radar. But a recent court case in California, along with similar cases in other states, made me realize that internet café owners have been forced to reinvent their service offering or otherwise risk going out of business. This is as a direct result of the advancement of technology which has enabled the production of computer hardware at a much lower cost which has been passed on to consumers in the market for PCs, tablets and other devices, the affordability and multiple options of internet packages from various companies, along with free wireless service in many public areas. It is no wonder, that many cafés now offer sweepstakes as an incentive to attract patrons.

 

 
In Bakersfield, thirteen internet café owners are awaiting the ruling of an appellate court judge, who will decide if they actually provide internet access along with other services such as faxing and copying or if they are sites for illegal gaming. The owners argue that their customers come to surf the net and that when they purchase internet time, they are simply entered into sweepstakes with a cash prize. Their argument is that it is similar to a ‘random monkey bonus’ – a Vegas-style slot machine term. I suppose it’s not the best analogy to win their case, but many internet café owners across the country are likening it to McDonald’s offer of the Monopoly sweepstakes game when you purchase a meal or even Coca-Cola promotions involving bottle caps being exchanged for prizes. It will certainly be interesting to see how the ruling will go, as it could mean the decline of internet cafés.

 

 
It’s certainly a deviation from the internet cafés that I knew which provided a straightforward service – cash for internet time with no additions. It was how the first internet café was operated in 1988 in South Korea, connecting users to online service networks through telephone lines. They were at least three years ahead of developed countries. The service only started being offered in the US in 1991 at coffee house locations throughout the San Francisco Bay area, using coin operated terminals. The term Cyber Café was coined in 1994 when the concept of full internet access began. By 2005, the specific niche of Sweepstakes Internet Cafes started offering internet access using sweepstakes promotions.

 

 

 

 

Slabb's X5 Kiosk is often used as an internet kiosk

Slabb’s X5 Kiosk is often used as an internet kiosk

It was around this time, that internet kiosks became more prevalent and were commonly found in public libraries, airports and hotels, providing a convenient option for users. They played an integral part in transforming the perception of the internet as trendy. Their introduction and resulting popularity might have been the catalyst, along with the increased accessibility to hardware and software, for internet cafés to start reinventing themselves. Internet gaming cafés have been extremely popular in Asia and have proven to be a sustainable revenue model due to the strong demand they create. Only time will tell if they will be allowed to continue in their current form or if US internet café owners must once again rethink their product offering.

Childcare Solutions using Self-service Options

In our blog about educational kiosks (Interactive Kiosks are Making an Impact in Schools), we mentioned some schools that are using self-service kiosks to make school processes more accessible to parents, while enhancing school security by using the units as check-in and check-out systems to keep track of students as well as visitors.

 

 
Unfortunately, in the world we live in, it has become necessary to ensure our children’s safety by safeguarding them from becoming lost or abducted. We’ve all seen the news coverage where some schools have lost track of a child’s whereabouts, sometimes leaving them in school trip vehicles or allowing them to be taken by unauthorized individuals, whether a stranger or estranged relative. We can also hope that the use of a kiosk system, along with other security measures such as surveillance cameras, effective lock systems or panels and doors made from impenetrable material, can act as a deterrent to individuals that may cause harm to our children or school property.

 

 
It has made the use of kiosk check-in systems in childcare management more commonplace. These systems, supported by security cameras that provide a live feed for parents, assist by alleviating some security concerns for parents, while allowing caregivers to manage their students more effectively. Some of the additional benefits of having these systems in place include:

 
• Less paperwork, thereby lessening administrative duties and costs. It gives caregivers more time to focus on the job at hand – the children in their care.
• More effective emergency management providing schools with an accurate headcount, if needed
• The kiosks can be used to provide parents with additional school-related information that they can access when signing their children in and out of the system.
• Parents can print school material from the kiosks including schedules, forms or grade sheets.

 

 
An interesting development regarding the use of kiosks in childcare management is the introduction of Comply Ally by Childcare Compliance in Los Angeles, California. Comply Ally is a kiosk system that allows childcare providers to access compliance tools and business management software, including guidelines for childcare, labor, and family law. Users can download forms and reports and will have access to reliable updates on important childcare regulations and industry standards. It greatly assists the childcare centers with limited internet access while reducing the administrative costs of agencies where the information is normally physically accessed.

 

 

 

Slabb X6 kiosk customized for childcare check-in/out

Slabb X6 kiosk customized for childcare check-in/out

In the past, Slabb has partnered with software companies providing web based, on-demand software solutions, some specifically for churches that use the software in our customized X6 kiosks as a check in system for the church’s daycare. The kiosk on the left is an example of one.

Find out more about our customizable kiosks here.

10 Interesting Facts about Kiosks

We recently did a blog on the Evolution of the Kiosk, and many articles have been written on this topic by experts in the industry. I’m always drawn to topics like this because I’m always interested in seeing how technology has changed so many products, not only physically but changes in product capacity and capability…Kiosks are no different.

 
There are so many technological advancements that have changed what kiosks can do and the amount of space and components they now require – from card readers to touch screens to multitouch screens that enhance the level of interactivity with the user. There is no doubt that kiosks will continue to evolve with new technological developments.

 
That’s why it’s important to study how kiosks have been redefined to suit consumers’ needs and wants and continues to do so. It’s also a good way to figure out what works and what doesn’t for users, ensuring that the same mistakes are not repeated.

 
So here’s a look at ten interesting facts I learnt about kiosks:

 
1. The word kiosk is derived from the Middle Persian word kōšk and referred to a small center that sold goods or services.

 
2. Interactive kiosks utilize a computer terminal that provides functionality through customized software.

 
3. The main kiosk input devices include a screen (LCD or touchscreen), keyboard and trackball.

 
4. Kiosks can also have optional components such as bill acceptors, card readers, printers and handsets.

 
5. In 1977, Murray Lappe, a pre-med student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed the first self-service, interactive kiosk.

 
6. The first successful network of interactive kiosks used for commercial purposes was developed in 1985 by shoe retailer the Florsheim Shoe Co. The network included 600 kiosks that provided images and video promotions for customers who wanted to purchase shoes that were not available at their retail location. The kiosk allowed the user to not only select the style, size and shoe color but also pay for the product via the kiosk.

 
7. The first commercial kiosk with internet connection was displayed in 1991, at Comdex. It was used to locate missing children.

 
8. A tradeshow for organizations looking to deploy interactive self-service kiosks was launched in 1997 by KioskCom. They continue to provide these services hosting tradeshows twice a year and offering companies education and demonstrations for successful self-service deployments.

 
9. The first state-wide deployment of interactive kiosks was done by Imperial Multimedia in 2007. They installed interactive kiosks in 31 Virginia State Parks which provided emergency information, park overviews, way finding services, video tours and printable maps.

 
10. It is estimated that over 131,000 kiosk terminals exist in the U.S. alone.

A New Meaning to Self-service

In many of my previous blogs,I would have spoken about the importance of convenience, especially in the world we live in today. Our lives seem more hectic than ever and we have access to so much more information that most of us are well-informed enough about the technology available and what it makes possible and we’re definitely not shy about demanding it.

 

 

A lot of our demands for convenience have been answered through self-service options, including self-servic,e interactive kiosks. Technological advancements also makes it possible to access just about anything or any service via a kiosk. I guess with this knowledge, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I encountered some of the more traditional kiosks, or vending machines. Traditional in look and feel – glass cases with products and the option to use cash, coins or credit cards to pay for and select the item you want. Imagine my surprise then when I found out some of the different items being sold from these machines:
 

'Cup-a-noodles' kiosk

‘Cup-a-noodles’ kiosk.

 

 

 

 

 

  • This would have come in really handy during my college years when I lived on Ramen noodles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egg vending machine

Egg vending machine

 

 

 

 

  • Egg vending machine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flower kiosk

Flower kiosk

 

 

 

 

  •  Talk about facilitating a last minute gesture of love or kindness after all the shops are already closed. Sure to please your significant other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Kitty kiosk

Hello Kitty kiosk

 

 

 

  • A young girl’s dream…And you don’t even have to stand in line at the shop in the mall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sushi Vending Machine

Sushi Vending Machine

 

 

 

 

  •  Sushi anyone? Not sure how much I’d trust this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Car Vending Machine

Car Vending Machine

 

 

 

 

  • Who needs a car dealership when you can purchase your next vehicle from a vending machine?

 

 
Then there were the machines in weird locations:
 

 

Beverage machine on Mt. Fuji

Beverage machine on Mt. Fuji

 

 

 

 

  • Great idea to have water handy while climbing Mt. Fuji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vending Machine on a Train

Vending Machine on a Train

 

 

 

 

  • This will almost make the commute to and from work a little more bearable.

 

 

 

 
It just goes to show…If there is enough of a demand for something…It can always be facilitated.

Self-service Healthcare Kiosks: Convenience When Inconveniently Ill

Nothing makes you more aware of your health than the inconvenience of being ill. Last week was a rough week, not only because I seemed to have the debilitating virus that is currently going around, but it also wiped my three year old out. If it’s one thing that’s really difficult when you’re ill, is having to take care of someone else who is also ill. But that’s all a part of parenting.

 
We often take our health for granted; only dreading the consequences when we become ill. Despite knowing this however, I still procrastinate when having to purchase vitamins after having taken the last one in the bottle. I never have the medication I need that can stave off the effects of the common cold or a headache. It’s always an inconvenient rush to the pharmacy or convenience store at the onset of symptoms.

 
Of course I wondered, being in the industry I’m in, if easier access would improve my preparedness for these things. A kiosk that dispenses over-the-counter or prescription drugs, even though not as far-fetched as previously thought (the FDA held talks last year with stakeholders regarding the feasibility of this concept) would need so many approvals that the reality of this is quite a few years away. But there are other kiosks that can assist in our efforts to have healthier lives – kiosks that take your blood pressure, measure your height versus your weight, dispensing Body Mass Index (BMI) stats to make sure you’re on the right track health wise.

 
A recent article by Forbes discussed the many functions of new healthcare kiosks which included vision testing, physician consultations via live videoconferencing, symptom assessment and follow up online programs.

 
The article also listed a few of the benefits that could be derived from these machines including:
• Greater reach – access by individuals who may not visit a doctor regularly for various reasons
• Medications are available on the spot, with the patient more likely to purchase it in a timely manner
• The advertising potential creates an additional revenue stream for businesses hosting the kiosk
• Better access and greater ability to market to a highly targeted audience.

 
It’s definitely an option that would provide added convenience to patients and might even save lives through prevention and early detection.