Okay so this may appear a little dramatic however the integration of self service and kiosk solutions is greatly reducing the amount of actual staff members employed onto the retail shop floor across UK stores.
Picture the scene: You walk into your local retail store searching for a particular product you cannot find. Frantically running around the isles searching for a staff member to assist you in your search, you find that not a team member appears in sight and all you are faced with is many computer screens and kiosk terminals. Not exactly the warm and friendly smile that you were hoping for but the only solution to your problem. So is this really going to work?
Well whether it will or not, this may be the future of customer service and already we have seen kiosks and self service checkouts deployed in our supermarkets, retail stores, pharmacies, post offices, in fact everywhere you look a kiosk has been put in place to replace staff members.
In Canada, the adoption of self service has taken the country by storm with Staples Business Depot already deploying video kiosks across all of its 34 stores around the country. The video kiosks connect to operators in Toronto who can help customers locate exactly what they are looking for.
Chris Woods, Chief Technology Officer of ClairVista, believes that video conferencing is the way forward when it comes to small businesses that are strapped for cash and struggling to employ staff members who have the knowledge and understanding of the brand and products they sell.
“Everybody who goes into a retail store today and walks away frustrated that they could not get their questions answered can get the help they need,” Woods said.
When pilot tests were run at the Staples store for the kiosk systems they found that they proved to be more popular with the customers as opposed to the staff members on call if customers needed a helping hand.
DL Baron, CEO of Expertcity said, “We found that consumers are lining up to talk to the person on the screen because they know the dopey kid behind the counter can’t answer their question.
“When consumers start using it, it becomes their preferred mode of engagement.”
However, video kiosks and information points cannot simply replace staff members completely. One of the key features of owning a store is making an impression on the customer and having a staff member to meet and greet when they arrive is highly important in order to retain business. On top of this, many customers may feel that integration of just kiosk systems is there because the company are looking to replace humans and cut down costs.
Baron believes that large retail stores don’t offer top quality customer service anyway and that video kiosks will actually be a major improvement.
“How many times have you walked out of the store because you knew more than the kid who was helping you?” he said. “Floor clerks have an impossible task in trying to keep up with and explain increasingly complex products.”
Baron believes that having set kiosks offer information on a product area can provide much better advice than a store assistant. Kiosks can also show videos which demonstrate how the products work and could even offer print outs for consumers to take away.
Customer service is still key in all of this and having automated responses or video kiosks can make the customer experience more impersonal. Customer service expert, Robert Spector author of ‘The Nordstorm Way,’ said,
“A lot of companies get enamoured with the technology and lose sight of the consumer,” he said. “Many companies don’t think like their customers, they think in ways to make (the company’s) life easier, rather than ‘how do we make the consumer’s life easier.’ “
There are so much more to kiosk systems that what meets the eye. Not only are they a cost effective service for the company and a new solution to the customer, there are other ways in which customers can truly benefit from a kiosk system.
Benefits to customers
Offers privacy: Consumers may not like the idea of having to shout out loud which product they are wishing to purchase or further discussing it in store with an assistant they have never met. Kiosks remove the potential embarrassment.
Faster service: Kiosk systems enable customers to speed up their customer waiting time and unnecessary hanging around which is often the case if all your staff members are preoccupied.
More convenient: Consumers don’t need to be computer savvy as kiosks don’t require any particular training or intelligence. Nowadays many customers are able to comfortably use interface kiosks and find it much easier than talking to a sales assistant.
Communication: Kiosks can’t be misunderstood so further enhances the customers experience because they don’t feel the frustration of not being able to communicate their needs.
Precision: The customer receives exactly what they are looking for and all their needs are met via the kiosk.
Benefits to the store owner
Productivity: Kiosks can maximise productivity by limiting the amount of time spent in conversation and data entry. If there are multiple kiosks then it can take orders simultaneously.
Ordering accuracy: When ordering with a store assistant there may be the case that the order when completed isn’t correct. There is a small margin for human error; however this is drastically diminished if kiosk systems are installed.
Easier to hire staff: Now you can focus your staff members more on what they do best. As opposed to having staff who need to do all jobs, you can now leave the customer service mostly down to the kiosks and manage your staff members more effectively.
The future for kiosks only looks like it is set to grow over the next few years; however the complete removal of staff members on the shop floor won’t be for a very long time. And if it every does then there are certainly going to be a lot of unemployed people hanging around the UK.