The Perspective 
Monday, 17 December 2007
 
Tim Burke, CEO of Electronic Art, regularly blogs about self-service on his company's Web site. The following column first appeared on that site here.
 
A recent NPR story talked about the use of a cell phone as an airplane boarding pass. Essentially, a message is sent to a passenger’s phone with a two-dimensional bar code, which serves as his boarding pass information. The ticket agent then scans the screen just as he would a paper boarding pass.

The use of a cell phone as a means of identification has big potential in the future. Imagine a kiosk or interactive digital sign being able to scan and recognize you by a bar code you were sent via e-mail. Or it may be able to recognize you via Bluetooth or similar technology. Imagine a kiosk that allows you to sign up for a program or service, receive a code via e-mail or SMS within moments and interact with the kiosk or purchase your product without cash or credit cards. This technology has a lot of potential uses and it is just waiting for companies to adopt it in an engaging way that provides real value to the consumer.

I recently became aware of a pay-by-phone service called MocaPay, which allows you to sign up for an account online and add cash to your account from your credit or debit card. You can then go to any merchant that accepts MocaPay and purchase with your phone. It works like this: You send an SMS to MocaPay with your PIN number, and it responds with a code number that is good for 15 minutes. You give the code to the merchant and walk away with your product. Your account is debited once you have used the code. The service doesn't cost you anything to use; the costs are charged to the merchant at a rate similar to a credit card transaction. Could this be the new Visa?

This young company is primarily targeting the early adopters who already embrace cell phones and SMS messaging. They are growing in U.S. cities with large college campuses, where this target market is ripe. They get the merchants and universities to sign up to allow this audience to purchase with their phones.

All great stuff, great ideas. Now we need customers and deployers to figure out when it's appropriate to integrate these tools for their projects. Could this be you?
Posted by: TIm Burke AT 10:58 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
Auto-maker BMW has been using informational kiosks for years in airports, malls and health clubs, as well as in dealership showrooms, to generate buzz for upcoming model releases. The man behind a lot of the buzz is Robert Plante, BMW kiosk programs manager for BMW of North America. Plante personally designed the company’s innovative wireless kiosks and pioneered the idea of using cell phone technology to wirelessly connect those kiosks. Now he answers 10 questions about one of the self-service industry’s highest-profile deployments.
 
How has BMW used self-service?
 
The goal of BMW’s kiosks is to provide information about our vehicles to customers. The kiosks give interactive descriptions of the vehicles, the products associated with those vehicles and about programs aimed at getting customers behind the wheel or to experience the brand. Our dealer kiosk program, which has won eight major industry awards since its first deployment, is being phased out and replaced by a new kiosk program that combines the functionality of an interactive, Web-based kiosk with the big-screen impact of digital signage. We also have an award-winning wireless kiosk program that we use to support product launches and experiential programs. These are deployed in malls, airports and other public spaces.
 
How were you involved in implementing the kiosks?
 
I was hands-on throughout. I oversaw the kiosk design, production, training and deployment — and remain deeply involved in the creation, design and distribution of all content. I also supervise the help-desk support.
 
When did BMW decide self-service would be beneficial?
 
We decided to use self-service several years ago. Our brand became a technology leader in the automobile market with more complex products, and we wanted to reflect that in our showrooms.
 
Who are the major suppliers of your self-service technology?
 
It was a collaboration of several vendors. Czarnowski and Frank Mayer & Associates designed the fixtures. Reality Interactive developed the technology/software. Reality Pictures provided the screen design and video content, and we went with Lenovo and Sony for the hardware.
 
What problems were the kiosks designed to solve?
 
We wanted the kiosks to communicate the romance, excitement and sheer joy of the BMW driving experience and to make the safety and technology easy to understand and to promote the experiential programs.
 
What steps did BMW take to deploy the kiosks?
 
We started with research, attended trade shows, studied other kiosk programs and held a design competition. We have an ongoing effort to build vendor team unity, design prototypes, increase field staff exposure, improve dealer communication, continue training, beta testing and content fixes.
 
What has been the biggest advantage of having kiosks? Are there any disadvantages or complaints?
 
The kiosks are a private, high-impact, targeted information highway to our customers and dealers. We can add new content within 24 hours — and, when necessary, even faster. Technical problems with Internet connectivity are a minor ongoing headache.
 
What kind of feedback have you received from car buyers?
 
We have heard excellent feedback so far.
 
Have you seen good ROI on your investment?
 
ROI on in-dealer kiosks is difficult to measure as these kiosks are more of a branding and information tool. Sales people seem to love it, though, so the kiosks are helping the sales process. The ROI on wireless kiosks is unbelievable.
 
What do you think is the future of self-service in a sales setting?
 
As vehicles become more complex, the landscape becomes more competitive and kiosk technology becomes better, the use of this tool only will grow.
Posted by: Robert Plante AT 11:01 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 04 December 2007
James Bickers

In the early 1980s, Games magazine used an experimental bit of technology to raise the eyebrows of its readers.

Taking advantage of a printing technology that was cutting edge at the time (and still seldom used today), the magazine customized one of the puzzles within its pages with the actual name of the subscriber. The result was an entire community of readers who were dumbfounded to solve a puzzle, only to find their name included in the solution.
 
Flash forward two decades later to the first major-label song to be released as an official MP3 download without digital copy protection. The song was “A Public Affair” by Jessica Simpson, and aside from the DRM issue, it was notable for another reason: Simpson recorded hundreds of different names for one particular lyric. The end result was that customers could buy a song in which the star was singing directly to them, addressing them by name.
 
A novelty? In both cases, most certainly. But both examples lead to a finer point: Make customers feel special, and you will make an impact. For any interaction you have with them, do all you can to make it all about them. If you ask customers to swipe a loyalty card through a device and then fail to greet them by their name, you’re missing an opportunity. Dale Carnegie was right: The sweetest sound to any person is the sound of his own name.
 
Interactive digital signage represents one of the newest, most exciting ways to make this happen since the introduction of on-demand printing. By adding a layer of interactivity to out-of-home digital media, businesses can engage their customers in a very high-impact transaction — one that can be memorable on every level — while still taking care of business.
 
Recent months have seen several companies experiment with through-the-window touchscreens, which allow shoppers outside a store to determine what is shown on-screen inside. Kiosks connected to public screen networks allow patrons to queue up preferences for the larger viewing public. And we only are at the beginning of the exploration of SMS’s potential, a potential that seems limitless given the proliferation of capable cell phones and equally capable thumbs.
 
The move from one-to-many messaging to one-to-one messaging is as big a shift as business has ever encountered. Technology makes it possible, but it is the people behind the technology that make it make sense. If the builders and deployers of these systems can keep their focus primarily on the people who will be using them, they are destined to succeed in ways not yet fully comprehended.
Posted by: James Bickers AT 11:43 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 04 December 2007
In the early 1980s, Games magazine used an experimental bit of technology to raise the eyebrows of its readers.
 
Taking advantage of a printing technology that was cutting edge at the time (and still seldom used today), the magazine customized one of the puzzles within its pages with the actual name of the subscriber. The result was an entire community of readers who were dumbfounded to solve a puzzle, only to find their name included in the solution.
 
Flash forward two decades later to the first major-label song to be released as an official MP3 download without digital copy protection. The song was “A Public Affair” by Jessica Simpson, and aside from the DRM issue, it was notable for another reason: Simpson recorded hundreds of different names for one particular lyric. The end result was that customers could buy a song in which the star was singing directly to them, addressing them by name.
 
A novelty? In both cases, most certainly. But both examples lead to a finer point: Make customers feel special, and you will make an impact. For any interaction you have with them, do all you can to make it all about them. If you ask customers to swipe a loyalty card through a device and then fail to greet them by their name, you’re missing an opportunity. Dale Carnegie was right: The sweetest sound to any person is the sound of his own name.
 
Interactive digital signage represents one of the newest, most exciting ways to make this happen since the introduction of on-demand printing. By adding a layer of interactivity to out-of-home digital media, businesses can engage their customers in a very high-impact transaction — one that can be memorable on every level — while still taking care of business.
 
Recent months have seen several companies experiment with through-the-window touchscreens, which allow shoppers outside a store to determine what is shown on-screen inside. Kiosks connected to public screen networks allow patrons to queue up preferences for the larger viewing public. And we only are at the beginning of the exploration of SMS’s potential, a potential that seems limitless given the proliferation of capable cell phones and equally capable thumbs.
 
The move from one-to-many messaging to one-to-one messaging is as big a shift as business has ever encountered. Technology makes it possible, but it is the people behind the technology that make it make sense. If the builders and deployers of these systems can keep their focus primarily on the people who will be using them, they are destined to succeed in ways not yet fully comprehended.
Posted by: James Bickers AT 11:04 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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