$15 Minimum Wage in the Age of Self-Service Kiosks — Pt. 5

Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed the many additional benefits that can be realized by utilizing self-service kiosks in many different environments — especially those that would be most affected by government-mandated minimum wage increases.  This week, we’ll take a look at the downsides of kiosk deployment, and demonstrate how smart advance planning can help eliminate some of the typical pitfalls we’ve run into over the years. Self-service kiosks have existed in different forms for decades. Some of the earliest adopters of this type of technology were banks, and many still remember the excitement that Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) caused when they were first rolled out en masse. Never again having to stand in line to withdraw your own money and 24/7 access to boot? Brilliant! Seems like an obvious thing now, of course — ATMs are ubiquitous, with an 350,000 machines in use in the U.S. alone. This demonstrates just how quickly self-service kiosks can catch on; but the key to success is to be sure that the product is solving a problem not just for the company deploying it, but for the customer as well.Speaking of problems, when a client comes to us to discuss their kiosk needs, an issue that’s often raised is the cost of managing and maintaining the machines once they are deployed.  Truthfully, it’s a valid concern. When self-service kiosks first became popular, they were notorious for being expensive and difficult to service; however, the dawn of the Internet Age changed all that as it enabled remote kiosk management.  It’s important to note that although the Internet enables remote management, it’s not the primary consideration. What’s most important is designing or selecting the right software for inclusion in the kiosk. New developments in this area have made it possible to create a kiosk that’s practically maintenance free. For the most part, gone are the days of expensive repairs and frequent crashes.  Simply understanding what type of software will work best in the machine and its environment and then making a well-informed choice is often all it takes to ensure a successful kiosk program, instead of a very expensive disaster. Great kiosk software also makes kiosks an excellent source of customer data. The ability to keep track of customer data, from purchases and shopping behavior to patterns of usability, gives companies the chance to fine-tune product offerings and marketing messages, as well as easily and conveniently capture consumer questions and comments when relevant. Finally, we come to the most important factor, and that’s setting appropriate, specific goals for your kiosk program at the very start of the concepting process — long before it ever deploys. This means having a clear understanding of the consumer you wish to serve, being unafraid to ask questions, and being absolutely certain what it is you want your self-serve kiosk to do. Failure to do adequate research and spend sufficient time on this aspect of kiosk development is likely the most common reason we hear that a program has failed. Want to know more about how RedyRef, a provider of vertically integrated kiosk solutions, helps businesses stay competitive, lean and agile in an increasingly global marketplace? Simply submit a request for proposal online or call (800) 628-3603 today for more information.

$15 Minimum Wage in the Age of Self-Service Kiosks — Pt 4

Last week, we took a more in-depth look at how self-service kiosks are being utilized — often in some lesser known ways — and the benefits that can be gained both for those deploying them and end users alike.

This week, we discuss additional benefits of self-service kiosks, and finish up next week with a discussion of some of the drawbacks; in particular, how the typical pitfalls of deployment can be avoided with smart advance planning. Although most of the media coverage involving self-service kiosks has involved the fast-food industry — likely because of the introduction of the $15 minimum wage in New York and the ensuing controversy it has caused — there is a segment that has been for the most part overlooked as part of the overall discussion, and that’s retail.  And while consumers tend to think of self-service kiosks in terms of what’s most commonly seen in the marketplace — airline check-in stations, digital wayfinding directories or ticket purchasing kiosks for public transportation such as light rail — it’s the use of kiosks in retail that may show the most potential to boost customer satisfaction and increase sales revenue, while decreasing overhead. Why do retail self-service kiosks often result in higher levels of consumer satisfaction?

  • Interactive store directories empower customers. Instead of wasting time walking around a store trying to find a specific product, or attempting to seek out a sales associate for assistance, wayfinding kiosks allow customers to help themselves.
  • Self-service checkouts allow stores to have more lanes available for use, especially during high-volume times, keeping customers moving and happy not to be stuck in line for extended periods.
  • In-store purchasing kiosks allow customers to directly order items that may be sold out and have them shipped to their homes.
  • In-store retail kiosks also offer customers the opportunity to purchase items in a wider variety of sizes, colors or styles that may be less popular overall and therefore not a good fit for the store’s footprint, but are still saleable.  

How do self-service kiosks positively affect the bottom lines of retail organizations?

  • A $15 minimum wage means that many companies will need to consider cutting labor costs.  Using more self-service checkout kiosks, and fewer employees, will allow businesses to keep wait times low and customer satisfaction high while keeping costs down.
  • Kiosks never forget to upsell or cross-sell.  Whether it’s waterproofing spray for new leather shoes, or margarita mix to go with that tequila, sophisticated software can now make the upselling process simple, convenient and most of all, highly relevant to the consumer.  These factors make an upselling or cross-selling conversion much more likely.
  • Easily manage and account for changes in store traffic “on the fly”.  Rather than trying to schedule employees around what they think will happen, managers can instead opt for a consistent employee schedule, utilizing self-service checkout lanes to handle any unexpected increases in customer traffic.
  • Not every business is a large business.  Smaller, specialty retailers can take advantage of the additional floorspace created when even a single traditional checkout counter space is eliminated and replaced with additional product.
  • Wayfinding kiosks reduce the need for floor sales associates when customers are able to get the answers they need on their own, thereby reducing labor costs.
  • The use of in-store, interactive catalog kiosks appear to result in larger purchases; in fact, Staples found that their kiosk customers spent twice as much as typical store customers.
As with most things, even those that are mainly beneficial, there is still usually a flipside that should also be considered.  Next week, we’ll discuss the drawbacks of self-service kiosks, and demonstrate how careful planning can help address the majority of issues that may arise. Want to know how RedyRef can help your business succeed in a competitive marketplace by implementing a self-service digital kiosk program? Simply submit a request for proposal online or call (800) 628-3603 today for more information.

$15 Minimum Wage in the Age of Self-Service Kiosks — Pt. 3

In our previous blog, we covered the five W’s of self-serve kiosks — who, what, when, where and why.  Now it’s time to begin taking a more in-depth look at how self-service kiosks are being utilized — often in some lesser known ways — and the benefits that can be gained both for those deploying them and end users alike. With a range of industries investing in consumer-facing digital kiosks, it stands to follow that the ways in which they are being deployed also vary widely.  From Delta Airlines’ self-service check in areas, to Staples’ digital catalogs in brick-and-mortar stores, to Panera Bread’s customer-initiated kiosk ordering process, consumers are seeing this technology more and more frequently, presented in increasingly diverse ways. This exposure, in turn, results in a level of comfort with using these types of technology that simply didn’t exist even five years ago. Because large companies have paved the way for the use of self-service kiosks, it’s become easier and more affordable for smaller companies to install them in their businesses, too. This is especially important, as some of the companies that will be hardest hit by the implementation of a $15 minimum wage are not the giant conglomerates, like Yum! Brands, but instead, “mom and pop” operations. For instance, Assistant Professor Ryan Buell of Harvard Business School recently discussed some interesting research showing that self-serve kiosks in liquor stores (which are very often locally owned) actually increased purchases of certain difficult-to-pronounce items by 8.4%.  Why? People didn’t want to ask a clerk for something they couldn’t say.  In that case, automating the process by using a kiosk allowed customers to buy a product without feeling embarrassed that they couldn’t say it correctly. Not having to hire as many employees at a higher wage after automating the process would also potentially help add to the business’ bottom line. In the same discussion, Buell also noted study results that correlated a 7 second decrease in service time with a 1-3% uptick in market share for fast-food restaurants — a massive increase in an industry constantly searching for ways to differentiate themselves in order to nab loyal customers from competitors.  This kind of increase could then possibly be extrapolated out to apply to smaller establishments as well.  Restaurants are notoriously low-margin; if customers could walk into their local diner and order on a kiosk before sitting down, and receive faster, more accurate service, it stands to reason that they would be happier with their experience and more likely to return. As an added boon, the table would also turn faster, resulting in the ability to seat a greater number of customers over the course of the day. Just seating a table just one more time per day in a restaurant with 15 tables and an average check of $25 could result in an annual increase of $117,000, if they were open 6 days per week.  Not exactly small change, literally or figuratively, especially for a small business, and the $15 and hour savings that would result from only needing one front-of-house employee rather than two over an 18 hour day could potentially save almost another $85,000 a year.  Taken together, this type of automation may add more than $200K to this small business’ revenue — more than justifying the long-term investment required to purchase one or two self-service kiosks. In our next blog, we’ll discuss additional benefits of self-service kiosks, and finish up with a discussion of some of the drawbacks, in particular, how the typical pitfalls can be avoided with smart advance planning. Want to know how RedyRef can help your business thrive with self-service digital kiosks? Simply submit a request for proposal online or call (800) 628-3603 today for more information.

$15 Minimum Wage in the Age of Self-Service Kiosks — Pt. 2

In our last blog, we began discussing automation as it applies to the use of self-service kiosks. This week, we’ll go into more depth regarding the rise of automation in consumer-facing industries, and begin taking a more detailed look at the Five Ws:

  1. Who is using it
  2. What types are currently in marketplace
  3. Where we are seeing it utilized
  4. When it is most helpful to implement
  5. Why its use is becoming much more widespread
So, who is using using self-service kiosks?  Well, it seems like almost every type of business has a use for one anymore.  Most major airports, quick-serve restaurants like McDonald’s and Panera, major hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton, large universities and retail titans including Target and Walmart, just to name a few. What types of digital kiosks and where they exist in the marketplace truly covers an enormous spectrum.  Some of the most common include:

  • Digital touchscreen airport, university and business directories
  • Ticket purchasing kiosks for public transit and sporting events
  • Self-service food-ordering kiosks at quick-serve restaurants
  • Self-service ordering via tablet at major restaurant chains
  • Express check-in kiosks in large hotel chains

When it’s most useful to implement self-serve kiosks generally correlates with the number of users a business has — which doesn’t necessarily mean kiosks are best utilized only during the busiest times.  Some of the smartest applications of digital kiosks are actually in areas where there users who require help, but maybe not enough that hiring full-time employees to staff the location makes financial sense. Why businesses are using digital kiosks is where things really get interesting. While there are a range of reasons to automate processes where it makes sense, some of the most common ones have to do with controlling costs associated with human labor. These can include benefits, absenteeism and the increasing concerns around higher, government-mandated wages — like the $15 minimum wage recently passed in New York State. Now that we’ve covered the five W’s, in next week’s blog, we’ll begin taking a more in-depth look at self-service kiosks are being utilized, and the benefits that can be gained both for those deploying them and end users alike. Want to know how RedyRef can help move your business control costs via the use of self-service digital kiosks? Simply submit a request for proposal online or call (800) 628-3603 today for more information.

$15 Minimum Wage in the Age of Self-Service Kiosks

There’s a massive labor shift on the horizon, and it goes by the name of “automation.”
What is automation? Automation (sometimes called “automatic control”) is the use of various control systems, like the digital kiosks we produce at RedyRef, to minimize or reduce human interaction. The biggest benefit of automation is that it saves labor, and can therefore reduce costs, but it is also used to increase quality outcomes by allowing for greater accuracy by reducing human error.
Most still view automation as something in the fuzzy, distant future.  They can see it coming, but don’t expect the impact anytime soon.  But the truth is that it’s much closer to becoming reality than many people likely realize.
Why has the conversation around automation suddenly gained steam?  There are a number of reasons:
  • $15 minimum wage for fast food workers in New York signaling a sea change that will greatly impact the way restaurants will need to do business going forward in order to remain profitable
  • Success of major retail brands such as Starbucks and Panera rolling out customer-driven ordering processes that have seen positive consumer responses
  • Quickly-advancing research into and testing of driverless car technology by industry titans such as Google and Apple rising to the media forefront, therefore allowing automation to gain traction in the consumer consciousness
  • The need for all consumer-facing businesses — retail and restaurant in particular — to find additional ways to mitigate some of the costs associated with human labor, especially human labor at a minimum cost of $15 an hour.  These include the usual suspects, such as wages and benefits, but also factor in such things as absenteeism and human error, as well as health and safety issues that can result from any process that requires multiple human touch points

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take each of these issues and deconstruct them, while discussing the overall impact they will have on the digital kiosk and signage industry,  as well as our customers.

Want to know how RedyRef can help move your business toward a greater level of automation? Simply submit a request for proposal online or call (800) 628-3603 today for more information.