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Self-service with a smile

Last month, I received a review copy of The Customer Experience Revolution: How Companies Like Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks Have Changed Business Forever by Jeofrey Bean and Sean Van Tyne.

Among the companies profiled in the book is EMN8, a manufacturer of self-service kiosks for quick service restaurants (QSR) and fast casual dining restaurants. EMN8 has succeeded in creating an easy, fast and engaging experience for restaurant customers that also benefits the business by increasing the average check, improving the speed of service, and lowering transaction costs.

But still, won’t customers consider the self-service kiosk to be an inadequate substitute for a real, live person who has the potential to make eye contact, smile, and add energy to her voice as she asks, “Would you like fries with that?”

Apparently not.

According to the authors, “EMN8’s research and development data and actual sales results show that younger customers, in particular, actually prefer an automated process, because they are in control of their own order. Accuracy is increased with the order by kiosk, so there are fewer surprises in the bag or on the tray. The kiosks also can help overcome language issues, because several different language options are available on the kiosk.”

Bilal Chinoy, Senior Vice President of Products at EMN8, describes a strikingly counter-intuitive finding about personal interactions that was uncovered during development: “A minority of people likes human interaction. The majority doesn’t think automation is a cold way of doing business. For most people, particularly young people under 35, human interaction is not important.”

I suppose this is consistent with the way consumers of all ages have taken to self-service options at banks, gas stations, supermarkets, airports, train stations, and even select DMV locations. Offering a self-service alternative not only benefits businesses, customers tend to experience fewer errors, gain more control over the transaction, and save time by reducing delays associated with long lines at the counter.

Given these benefits, perhaps it’s okay if the only smile customers experience at a self-service kiosk is their own.

Do you agree?

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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