Self-service kiosks are everywhere, helping to serve customers across a multitude of industries, and there is no question that they have transformed many businesses for the better. Today we will examine the various benefits (as well as a few drawbacks) in order to help those interested in kiosks better understand if they may be a fit for their business use case.
What Are Self-Service Kiosks?
Self-serve kiosks are digital information centers that feature either static (non-touch) screens or touchscreens, which are considered to be “interactive.” Kiosks that utilize touchscreens allow users to access a specific set of automated services, while static displays are generally used only to display a single image or set of images with information, such as a digital ad. The purpose of self-service kiosks is to allow a customer to interact with a company, product, brand or service, and via automated means, without requiring additional personnel, like customer service agents. Self-service kiosks are becoming quite common in many different environments, but some of the most popular applications include quick service restaurants (QSRs), movie theaters, and hospital or college campuses.
What Are the Functions of a Digital Self-Service Kiosk?
The primary function of a digital self-service kiosk is to allow customers to complete various common tasks on their own without the assistance of a dedicated employee. This can range from placing orders for food, to purchasing train or bus tickets, to depositing and withdrawing money from bank accounts. Whatever the kiosk’s function, the ultimate goal is to give users more freedom and better efficiency. While self-service kiosks do require an initial capital investment, self-service kiosks offer companies the ability to automate simple processes, reducing the need for additional manpower.
What Are the Advantages of Interactive Self-Service Kiosks?
One of the primary reasons interactive self-service kiosks have become popular so quickly is that they allow companies to engage with their customer base on the user’s own terms. As you can imagine, there are quite a few benefits to taking this approach:
- Efficiency: With many services now automated, including travel check-in, ticket dispensing, and bill payments, self-service kiosks free up manpower to assist in other areas, potentially those that require more personal attention. For example, self-service kiosks allow contractors, staff and visitors to check in to a business location without assistance, which keeps administrators and front office staff from wasting valuable time that may be better spent elsewhere.
- Adaptability: Since self-service kiosks are digital devices, depending on the configuration, they can often adapt to different situations without requiring an entire redesign. For example, a kiosk that was previously used for wayfinding can undergo a software update that would allow it to be used for visitor check-in as well.
- Connectivity: Most digital kiosks are now connected to cloud-based servers; this means they are able to be accessed remotely, allowing new content to be loaded, software to be updated and troubleshooting to be handled without having to ever physically touch the kiosk itself. Ultimately, this means that once set up, the kiosk can be maintained fairly easily.
- Efficiency: One of the hallmarks of self-service kiosks is efficiency. Because many basic customer services can now be automated, a single, self-service kiosk can often handle traffic that a single employee simply could not.
- Increased Profits: While self-service kiosks do require an initial investment, they are capable of excellent ROI. Since customers are able to engage with companies on their own terms, the upsell potential is much higher, increasing potential profits.
- Footprint: Well-designed self-service kiosks can free up floor space in places where that space comes at a premium, such as in stores or restaurants.
- Customer Satisfaction: With quicker service and more user freedom, customer satisfaction will usually increase. In fact, many individuals -- Millennials in particular -- prefer to “serve themselves,” and a self-service kiosk allows them to do exactly that.
- More Digital Marketing Opportunities: Self-service kiosks allow advertisements to be displayed digitally on the “attract” screen, as well as areas of the active kiosk display and on its enclosure, which offers an opportunity to advertise to surrounding foot traffic.
- Attractive Design: Self-service kiosks are easy to locate and can be designed in ways that beautifully showcase a company’s brand, while enhancing their public-facing image.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Self-Service Kiosk?
While they can provide a host of profound benefits to both companies and consumers, self-service kiosks are not without a few drawbacks. And while these negatives don’t generally outweigh the positives, they should still be noted before making a purchasing decision.
- Lack of Customer Engagement: Since most of a kiosk’s services are handled digitally, without 1-to-1 human interaction, there is no personal touch. A machine, while useful and quick, can’t handle all problems and there are some grievances that a customer might have that are more complicated than what would be appropriate for a kiosk to handle.
- Technical Issues: All technology will eventually run into hardware problems due to normal wear and tear, and self-service kiosks are no exception. Software can require patches or other updates, and almost always requires regular maintenance, meaning some overhead will be required to keep a kiosk running smoothly. This is usually done via an annual contract with the kiosk’s manufacturer.
- Expensive Initial Investment: Implementing new technology nearly always requires a larger investment upfront in order to reap long-term savings and other benefits. Although most companies that utilize self-service kiosks recoup their investment within 1-2 years, a self-service kiosk can cost anywhere between $2500-$25,000 depending on the features, display size, integrations, components and software required.
Which Industries Use Self-Service Kiosks?
Self-service kiosks are being deployed by a growing number of industries, with hospitality, and transportation, and food service leading the way. However, the list is steadily growing, especially in retail, healthcare, and within a wide range of other environments where the need for automation is rising:
- Hotels: Hotels utilize self-service kiosks for self-check-in as well as other services including wayfinding and local area information.
- Airports: Self-service kiosks for flight check-in and self-tagging of checked luggage have been common for more than a decade now. Airports also utilize kiosks for wayfinding around facility, and to communicate flight information and gate changes.
- Restaurants: Restaurants and cafes deploy self-service kiosks so that customers can place and customize their own orders as well as handle potential overflow, ensuring an expedited line even during busy hours.
- Transportation: Bus and train stations use kiosks to dispense tickets and provide wayfinding for different stops along each route.
- Stadiums: Sports arenas and large stadiums use kiosks to help promote events as well as dispense tickets.
- Movie Theaters: Theaters use kiosks to handle ticket and food purchases.
- Retail: Retail stores use kiosks as locations to allow customers to place special, out-of-stock, or customized orders, as well as locate merchandise within a store, and handle customer overflow during busy times. Some retailers are even using kiosks to dispense small items, such as SIM cards or other small electronics.
- Hospitals: Hospitals often utilize self-service kiosks to assist patients with check-in, as well as offer wayfinding services on large campuses.
Self-service kiosks offer a host of benefits with few drawbacks. And while they do require an investment, their deployment can result in excellent ROI for businesses, greater user freedom, and a more positive overall customer experience.