With British supermarket giant Marks & Spencer preparing to roll out hundreds more self-service checkouts during 2023, there’s no denying that self-service devices are taking over. A UK survey revealed that 66% of people think self-service increases efficiency when shopping, which is the thinking behind M&S’s new rollout. They’ve already added an extra 800 self-checkouts and are planning to create even more in an attempt to increase efficiency and ultimately save over £150 million.
However, a survey conducted by The Telegraph found that only 38% of its readers prefer self-checkout options. While according to a People’s Panel survey, over half (57%) prefer to be served by a cashier.
In this article, we’ll explore the positive and negative elements of such self-service advancements, and how self-service can be used to drive good business.
A tech-savvy customer base
A huge range of activities which previously required customer and staff interaction can now be fulfilled by technology. From checking into a hotel and paying for shopping to ordering food in a restaurant, we could, in theory, go full days without needing to speak to another person!
Whilst minimising staff and investing in self-service machines sounds like a negative option leading to higher unemployment, businesses should always listen to customer preferences. A recent study shows that over 90% of us not only prefer a self-service option, we actually expect one. If customers are denied this independence, 59% of us would refuse to purchase from this company and search for another option.
It’s unlikely that large numbers of staff would be ‘replaced’ by self-service devices, as staff are still needed to deal with any glitches or unavoidable errors – such as the dreaded ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ moment!
However, self-service options empower the customer, allowing them to choose whether or not to speak to a customer advisor. They free up staff time, meaning they no longer spend large chunks of their day processing routine transactions or completing simple actions which can be done by a machine. This allows a team to devote more time to their customers who have more complex requests and provide them with higher quality, quicker service.
With such a large proportion of customers choosing self-service options, artificial intelligence (AI) offers a simple, efficient way to offer a more personalised experience to the consumer. In previous years, only 25% of all customer interactions were automated through the use of AI. This is expected to rise to 40% in 2023.
An impersonal or negative self-service experience can lead to a loss of revenue and loss of customers. A PwC survey found 32% of customers refuse to return to a brand after a single negative experience.
If self-service devices need to be installed outdoors, they’re likely to face adverse weather conditions during their lifespan. Damaged touchscreens or kiosks will create a bad experience for the customer and also cost the business extra money, affecting the company’s bottom line. In addition to this, once a device has been repaired once, it will likely be weakened, meaning more frequent future repairs will be necessary.
Luckily, the issue of durability can be reduced by choosing the right technology at the design stage. The inclusion of a toughened touch screen can minimise the potential for damage and allow for full interactivity, even during adverse weather conditions.
For devices such as interactive maps, anti-reflective touch screens can reduce glare in direct sunlight and retain functionality even whilst the customer is wearing gloves. Incorporation of this kind of technology is essential in providing a positive customer experience every time.
This kind of innovative technology benefits both the customer and the business by providing an enjoyable, efficient experience.
“Self-service is now an essential aspect of business. Such devices can save time and money whilst prioritising consumer satisfaction, even providing a personalised service. Businesses need to respond to consumer trends and provide their customers with a reliable, personalised, self-service experience.” - Mark Cambridge, CEO at Zytronic