One of the main concerns which self-service kiosks are often met with is the reduction of face to face customer interaction. A lack of face to face communication can often lead to customer frustration, particularly when their requests do not fall within those which can be quantified or fit within a certain box. It is therefore important to understand what industries will benefit from kiosk solutions, and what industries need to retain at least some human interaction.
Self-service kiosks have already been implemented successfully in several sectors nationwide. We have previously spoke about the benefit of A&E prescription payment kiosks; this is one sector where it may seem that kiosks would be detrimental but in actuality, they serve to lessen the load on staff, freeing up hours that can be now be spent on patient care. These kiosks have also enabled out of hours payments to be made – prior to this, patients who were given prescriptions out of reception hours were often allowed their treatment for free due to a lack of access to payment facilities. These kiosks have therefore opened up the ability for A&E departments to take revenue 24/7 – an act which is essential in a time where the NHS is facing huge cuts.
Another government sector which has seen the installation of self-service kiosks is local councils. Many council payments, such as council tax, can be done over the phone or online but there are demographics out there without access to these facilities. In the past, these people would have to have queued to speak to someone, often in lengthy queues, for a simple payment which takes little to no time to complete. This is both a waste of the customer and staff time; in this case, customer interaction prevents staff from dealing with important admin and increases customer frustration. Council kiosks have helped to dramatically reduce the demand for council staff as customers can pay for a range of council services, including tax, parking fines, licenses and more. By freeing up these transactions, staff now have more time to work on important tasks, making the council processes run much more efficiently.
Transport is one industry which has thrived from making a move towards cashless travel. Thanks to Transport For London (TFL)’s move to completely cashless in July 2014, London is the first city to have a completely cashless transport system. This move has saved TFL £24 million annually due to a combination of reducing the number of manned ticket offices, and also due to improved efficiency in the bus service. This money can be used on improving the transport system further, making the process even smoother. Train stations have also benefited from the implementation of kiosk ticket machines. Not only is there reduced queueing, the option of topping up prepaid cards is reducing paper waste from tickets.
One sector which has seen a successful roll out of kiosks is retail, particularly supermarkets. However, retail is one industry which will also benefit from customer-staff interaction, particularly as customers may need advice on products and returns. Most supermarkets and stores have found a happy medium where customers who are purchasing a certain number of products can use kiosks, thereby eliminating the need to queue for smaller purchases, but customers who require information or are doing larger shops can use manned tills. This is a great example of how self-service facilities can be used to supplement customer service without eliminating it.
The food industry is another example of where kiosks can help in certain situations, but can not be used to replace customer service entirely. Many fast food chains such as McDonalds are greatly benefitting from the installation of kiosks as they help to reduce pressure on staff by cutting down queues. While this works well in the fast food industry, it would not bode well for other areas such as prestigious restaurants as these may rely on a high standard of customer care for upholding their reputation.
Most industries will benefit from implementing self-service kiosks; particularly those which experience queues for short, simple transactions. Most industries will need to find a balance between the efficiency provided by kiosks, and the service provided by humans. Our kiosks are intended as a way of smoothing the customer purchase process and therefore increasing customer satisfaction, but we would always point to the need of a customer care process to be set in place, whether that be by manned tills, a customer helpline or a customer service care team.