Self-service kiosks have been around for quite some time, but only in the past few years have they risen in popularity. From quick-service restaurants to automated services at the bank and airport, self-service functions help to expedite travel, retail purchases and assist with wayfinding. Today, we will be discussing self-service, its pros and cons, and why it is important for the future of most businesses.
Self-service is precisely as its name suggests -- the ability for customers to serve themselves. This is applied primarily to retail stores, restaurants or service stations where customers are allowed to select either a good or service for themselves and purchase it on their own terms. An example of this is ordering a meal at a quick-service restaurant kiosk where customers are able to customize their meal to their liking. The restaurant can then make the food to the exact specifications input into the kiosk, lessening the chance that the customer has to wait in a lengthy line.
In a similar vein to other types of self-service, customer self-service uses technology to provide electronic support that allows users to access information such as building layout, wayfinding or travel information, all without the need for a live customer service representative. A real-world example of this would be directory kiosks that provide the layout of a mall or corporate office, or digital library catalogs that allow users to search for whatever information they need without the need to engage an employee.
Self-service is an integral part of many businesses' strategies for two primary reasons -- it creates efficiencies, and it results in a shorter feedback loop between the consumer and the business itself. The first is self-explanatory; with kiosks able to handle many simple tasks, personnel can be distributed to handle more immediate and demanding tasks. The second reason is that with kiosks able to handle financial transactions, customers are then enabled to make purchases based on their own individual wants and needs, which can result in a much more positive experience for the consumer, making it more likely that they will return in the future.
Many industries are slowly transitioning into digital self-service, allowing customers to decide how they obtain information and make purchases. Below are some examples of how digital self-service is made readily available in a public format.
To create an engaging digital self-service experience, it is important to give customers the means of interacting with your product or service on their own terms, allowing them as much freedom as possible. While it may be counterintuitive to some, giving your customer base more freedom in choosing their own way of purchasing their own goods and services is almost always a net positive.
Many customers prefer digital self-service kiosks as they have the ability to expedite purchases and allow individuals the freedom to handle these transactions at their own pace. However, for many elderly or technologically-challenged individuals, digital self-service may not be the right fit as it can seem too complicated for those not used to the system.
The primary advantage of self-service technology is to allow a customer to engage with products, services, or companies on their own terms. In other words, it allows people to purchase goods and services on their own time without feeling pressured or rushed, resulting in a more positive user experience and greater potential for the customer to return. In the case of information, making it available in a self-service format is often more convenient to consumers as it allows them the freedom to access information in a more expedient manner than finding and consulting with a customer service agent.
The primary disadvantage of self-service technology is that there is a lack of human interaction, which isn't ideal in every environment or for every user. The lack of in-person assistance becomes especially problematic when occasional issues pop up, such as price discrepancies, the purchase of age-controlled substances such as alcohol and cigarettes, items failing to scan, or splitting payments between credit or debit cards. For commercial transactions, there will always be a few outliers that will cause snags with self-service processes, and what may be a minor problem for a cashier, can sometimes turn into a larger issue for self-service kiosks.
Self-service is fast becoming the trend for a reason: it helps to expedite many tasks in our daily lives while also allowing more freedom for consumers. Although developing a digital kiosk program may seem daunting at first, self-service is a trend that almost every industry can and most likely will eventually adopt.