The Perspective 
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
At its simplest, self-service is any application that allows the end-user to perform a task with minimal supervision of the application owner.
In this context, the very first Web site was a self-service solution. These early Web sites contained nothing more than static information, but it enabled a consumer sitting at home to learn about a company’s products without tying up company staff. Nowadays, Web sites are infinitely more useful, and it makes sense for companies to extend that self-service utility to the public kiosk realm. But useful as Web sites are as a self-service tool, Web sites and touchscreen hardware in particular do not mix.
When the vast majority of Web sites were developed, the user in mind was sitting behind a standard computer complete with keyboard and mouse. Today, perhaps, those developers are designing sites for users to view on a cell phone. But the one user likely not on their minds is the one standing at a kiosk, trying to interact with the site via a touchscreen. After all, the typical user’s finger is probably more than 100 times wider than the mouse pointer the Web site was designed to use. This fact alone likely makes the Web site unusable in a touchscreen environment.
What should be kept in mind, however, is that the touchscreen interface is not the only means by which kiosk users can interact with Web sites.
Touchscreens are great for presenting uncluttered and simple interfaces that don’t require significant text input. When text input is required, a touchscreen application must use a virtual keyboard: a graphic representation displayed on the screen that requires a user to hunt and peck using a single finger. This can be frustrating and slow to the user but a reasonable compromise when the input is minimal.
But what about uses that require significant text input, such as job applications? If the goal is to maximize the number of applicants, using a touchscreen should be avoided. The caveat stands regardless of whether the form is Web-based.


Pairing web and kiosk

Most obviously, self-service devices and Web sites work well together when the content of the Web site already is aligned with the goals of the self-service project. Fitting examples include: product-ordering retail kiosks that allow users to order a product not in stock, gift registry kiosks, HR kiosks that use the company's existing 401k and benefits applications, web-banking kiosks and informational kiosks in tourist spots, churches, college campuses and company lobbies.
Fortunately, there are many kiosk software products that enable browser-based content to be efficiently deployed to a self-service kiosk. Kiosk software titles can provide many features, but the most important ones are those that replace the existing browser software, lock down the PC, control where a user can browse, provide alternative navigation toolbars, manage the user’s session to remove any trace of users when they leave, and interface with specialized kiosk hardware.
There are many reasons to go the software route instead of considering other, more extreme measures.
CONTENT. Why re-invent the wheel if the content already exists? Especially now, ROI is paramount in determining project viability. Rewriting the display layer of an existing application can cripple the ROI of the project. A visitor center kiosk is a good example. The local tourism bureau likely already has an existing Web site with links to all the local attractions. Why recreate that content and pay for it anew?
INTERFACES. Why confuse the user with a different interface? For a financial institution with online banking that their clients regularly use from home, a second user interface designed for a self-service kiosk will only confuse those clients and force them to learn two different interfaces that perform the same functions.
OPERATIONS. Maintaining a second user interface can cause operational problems. Often the organization responsible for the company’s Web site is not the same organization responsible for the self-service kiosk. With two interfaces, the business logic and Web site interface will be owned by the Web site organization. And they may not notify the kiosk organization when the business logic changes, thus breaking the self-service interface. Irate kiosk customers may be the first indication of the problem.
THIRD PARTIES. Applications from outside vendors can prevent the development of an alternate self-service user interface. HR self-service applications are a perfect example. Most companies deploy a third party HR solution, which they don’t control, so they are severely limited in how the user interface can be modified.
There is a middle way between the issues above and the extreme of forgoing the application of Web content to a self-service device. Kiosk software provides a solution that is convenient for the deployer, friendly to ROI and comparatively fast to put to use.
Posted by: Jim Kruper AT 12:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
The following commentary appears in the ATM Future Trends Report 2009: A comprehensive look at the ATM industry over the next five years, published by ATM Marketplace.
In global banking and financial circles, retail banking has proven to be a relatively stable factor in the partially volatile banking sector. At least in the short term, we expect further growth in this area of banking, which in recent years has experienced a renaissance worldwide.
This outlook is based on our belief that the basic trends in the retail banking sector will remain the same for many players during the present economic crisis. Most retail banks, for instance, will continue to face fierce competition. To grow their business, they aim to expand their customer base. At the same time, they plan to invest in optimizing processes to reduce costs.
Despite these robust conditions in the medium term, we acknowledge that retail banking could be impacted in the short term by the unfavorable situation in the financial sector and by a possible weakening of the overall economy. That said, we expect growing competition to lead to additional opportunities for Wincor Nixdorf in the medium term. Subsequently, we will continue to make significant investments in research and development in order to expand our portfolio of IT-based innovative solutions for retail banks. Here are a few market trends as we see them.
Self-service and automation continue to advance
More and more processes are being automated or transferred to self-service systems such as ATMs. While banking customers benefit from faster service, standardized processes help banks streamline their operations. One example from the United States is the automated processing of checks through self-service systems. The technology reduces not only the amount of time customers spend waiting at the counter, but also the enormous transaction costs, ranging from about 39 cents to $1.70 per check. A factor further driving automation is the huge costs for banks of cash handling.
Branches remain highly valuable
Despite the growing importance of other sales channels, the branch remains the “personal face” of the retail bank to its customers and its most important contact and sales channel. Particularly in established markets such as Germany, Europe and North America, banks are modernizing their branch networks and creating additional services via self-service systems, for example. The goal is to retain existing customers and win new ones. In numerous emerging markets, retail banks are expanding their footprint through branches and self-service offerings.
The mix of various sales channels is becoming more important
Increasingly, customers are deciding for themselves which channel to use to contact their bank. Adapting to this behavior will become a key success factor for banks. Many of them already use customized software to combine their sales channels and unify applications across all channels and various devices. With this software, banks benefit from features such as improved information from the individual channels and the capability to use this information across channels.
Intensifying customer contacts, also through ATMs
Market studies show that banks in a number of countries risk losing direct contact with their customers. In the United States, for instance, only one third of all retail bank customers seek personal advice from their bank. In the United Kingdom the figure is even lower: just one tenth. In Germany, our home market, around 85 percent of all standard transactions, such as cash withdrawals, are now processed at self-service terminals. Since self-service systems, and in particular ATMs, have become the most heavily used channel to contact banks, it makes sense to use these systems to communicate individually with customers.
The first step in this process is to gather information about the users of the various sales channels and process this information consistently and individually on a common software platform such as PCE. With these solutions, banks have access to individual customer data to create targeted advertising campaigns. As such, self-service systems — designed primarily to automate processes — can be used by banks as highly effective communication tools to promote their own products such as loans and insurance. Also, independent ATM deployers can use them to generate additional revenue through third-party advertising.
Searching for new means and possibilities
These examples show that there is plenty of activity happening around self-service systems like ATMs — activity that is totally independent of the current financial and economic crisis. At the same time, they illustrate how companies in the ATM space have the potential to drive change through innovation and help customers deal with the many challenges they face. In these difficult times, we view it as both an opportunity and an obligation to explore new paths for the success of our customers. Mutual trust grows in these times of special challenges.
Eckard Heidloff began his career in 1983 at Nixdorf Computer AG. He was named president and CEO of Wincor Nixdorf AG in January 2007.
Posted by: Eckard Heidloff AT 12:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
This article is an excerpt of white paper published by Reflect Systems, TracyLocke and DPMI.  To download a copy of the complete white paper, click here.
During the middle of the 19th century, newspapers and magazines were read by only a small, literate minority. It was at that time that the first commercial mass communications medium emerged in Western Europe and North America. That new commercial mass medium was the department store.
As this new retail medium developed in the USA, department-store barons such as Marshall Field in Chicago and John Wanamaker in Philadelphia built retail palaces that communicated to the native-born and immigrant masses both the practical utility of ready-made, store-bought consumer goods and the allure and glamour of what today we might refer to as the “mass consumer culture.”
Reflect Systems digital signage at the Verizon Experience store.
For many Americans of that day, the department store medium was experienced much like a rare window into what today we might call the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” That concept – the store itself as a communications medium – was powerful, it was engaging and it was ultimately more successful than any other communications medium deployed by retailers before or since.
Enter the 20th century: mass media expands beyond retail
By the beginning of the 20th century, the retailers’ monopoly on mass consumer media via the brick-and-mortar department store had faded. As literacy increased and the technologies for printing, electric power generation and transportation matured, U.S. newspapers and magazines were transformed.
During this period, department stores needed the newspapers and magazines to reach more customers, and the press needed the advertising revenue from the department stores. As a result of that partnership between commercial mass media and department-store retail, the American mass consumer culture began to emerge.
By the end of the 20th century, the mass-media scene was no longer dominated by the leading retailers of that time, such as Walmart, Sears, JCPenney and Kmart. Instead, the media scene outside of the brick-and-mortar retail stores was largely controlled by highly profitable mega media corporations such as Viacom, News Corporation, Gannett, Time Warner and GE/NBC.

Digital technology and the fragmentation of mass media create a new digital media space for retailers
In our new 21st century, this high concentration of media power in the hands of the mega media corporations is clearly in flux. Today this shrinking and fragmentation of the mass audience for newspapers, network TV and radio creates a big opportunity for retailers. North American retailers now have an opportunity to incorporate shopper-friendly digital media technologies (audio and/or video) into their stores and reclaim the historic role of the retail store as the leading mass consumer medium.
A Reflect installation at the Borders Digital Life concept store.
Retail anthropologist Paco Underhill describes the retail store as a “three-dimensional TV commercial” and a “walk-in container for words and thoughts and messages and ideas.” In order to avoid confusing shoppers, Underhill notes that “Every store is a collection of zones, and you’ve got to map them out” before producing any messages – digital or analog – for shoppers.
When retailers bring digital media networks into their stores, they can avoid many of the early mistakes that were made with online retailing during the 1990s. Today retailers can test the waters by developing version 1.0 of their in-store networks in pilot mode at a small number of stores. These pilots can provide retailers with validation that in-store digital media networks really can engage shoppers in their stores.
When planning an in-store digital media network, retailers should ask themselves two questions: “Why do we want a network?” and “What are our goals for the network?” To plan the network, the company should complete a comprehensive Business Planning process. Next management needs to select the right software to control the network and recruit a competent media production house to produce audio/video content for the network.
The medium is the message and the Chief Marketing Officer owns that message

For any retailer, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) should own and control the messaging and branding that is delivered to shoppers by the in-store digital network. When creating the network, it is inevitable that the marketing department will find itself in conflict with other departments.  These conflicts can be managed successfully if senior management understands the issues and provides effective leadership to the company and local store managers.
In-store pilots of digital media networks work best if they last about 90 days and are staged in about ten stores located in two distinct local markets. Within each store, shoppers need to see the network screens in three types of store zones where shoppers find themselves in a different mindset or “mode.” These are the “pass-by mode,” the “dwell-time mode” and the “interactive mode.”

The critical factor of any in-store digital media network – whether it’s in pilot or in a full nationwide deployment – is creating the right content that meets shoppers’ needs. To develop that content, retailers should start by reviewing the company’s brand/style guide. Next they should work with the company’s creative agency to create a brand/style for the in-store network that dovetails with the company’s overall brand and style.
To evaluate the in-store pilot, retailers should recruit a research team to survey shoppers in order to learn what they think about the network and its content. This research will address three questions:
  • Are shoppers aware that the network exists?
  • What do shoppers like and dislike about the network?
  • Has the network successfully changed shoppers’ behavior in ways that meet the needs of the business?
As the pioneer U.S. retailer Marshall Field is credited as saying in his heyday, good retail practice can be summarized in two simple statements. The first statement is “Give the lady what she wants” and the second statement is “The customer is always right.” When in-store digital media networks enable modern shoppers to feel that they are being treated right and getting exactly what they want, then this new technology and new-media content will integrate itself seamlessly into the retail landscape.
Bill Collins is principal of DecisionPoint Media Insights (DPMI), which produces custom research and consulting on digital media networks that are deployed at retail and out-of-home. 
Dorothy Allan is senior vice president for retail strategy at TracyLocke, a full-service marketing agency based in Dallas. Dorothy is currently driving the TracyLocke Engagement Strategy, developing shopper personas and recommending relevant touch points for their clients’ shoppers.
Posted by: Bill Collins AT 10:55 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
The following is an excerpt from 2009 ATM Future Trends Report: A comprehensive look at the ATM industry over the next five years, published by ATM Marketplace.
As ATM Marketplace unveils its latest edition of its Future Trends report, a variety of factors are accelerating and enhancing the financial services environment. Notably, consumers expect ubiquity in touchpoints and an ability to engage in a relationship with their financial institutions.
To make them available, financial institutions need to implement a merged-channel strategy that combines online, mobile and point-of-service options, such as the combined power of ATMs, kiosks, call centers and branches. Choice, speed and flexibility are now merely the price of admission, while multi-channel is the next hill to climb for those who want to maintain and acquire new customers over the next decade.
These factors are bringing rise to a number of new trends.
  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS) will become more important in providing organizations with cost-effective, secure and highly available applications for online and mobile channels via hosting. SaaS enables banks to keep pace with the latest innovations and consumer needs while executing transactions at a fraction of a bank’s start-up investment.
  • Online and mobile banking, supported by the expansion of broadband communication access, are becoming more than mainstream; they are becoming a mainstay. Mobile devices and applications and their always-on convenience represent the biggest opportunity to reach a permanently alerted mobile and global consumer.
  • Environmental responsibilities will need to be addressed through existing technological improvements and new innovation, such as two-sided thermal printing. Near-field communications (NFC) will help merge the experiences of branch banking, online banking, mobile banking and beyond, into the retail environment as a payment device.
Industries everywhere are rising to the challenge of serving customers when, where and how they want to be served. But simply providing alternative channels is not enough; consumers expect those channels to work together. Whether buying an airline ticket or paying their bills, consumers now move through their daily lives purchasing products, services and information through a variety of channels. More often than not, they will begin a transaction on one channel and complete it using another. Increasingly, people now have flexibility and expect it in whichever channel they use, based on personal preference, the nature of the transaction and the time and location of the service they need.
Consumers will choose financial services providers that empower them to manage their lives through such options. Customers want a faster, easier and more personalized interaction with their bank. They want to bank when and where it’s convenient for them — whether at noon or midnight. Home or branch. ATM or mobile. Call-center or kiosk.
For financial institutions, this means their mobile banking experience must look and feel like their online banking experience, with applications that offer critical services on the go. Targeted product offers that are provided online must be in concert with offers delivered via the ATM channel. Consumers are moving too quickly and have too many other inputs in their lives to deal with fragmented marketing experiences that have no relationship to their needs.
The upside for financial institutions that do respond to more integrated approaches is enormous. The downside to those who do not is a future of reduced loyalty and a declining customer base. Banks that do not offer a rich merged-channel capability will fall behind the competition and risk their own relevance. We already know that the more touchpoints consumers have with their banks, the more likely they are to stay with those banks. A study carried out by Opinion Research Corporation found that 43 percent of consumers are more likely to choose a financial institution that offers multi-channel self-service. The uniformity of experiences and communications will make it easier and faster to interact with customers, whom no one can afford to lose. Institutions also can use channels to reach new customers that have been excluded from financial services through the traditional channel approach — an important opportunity in the current economic downturn to create new relationships and core-deposit growth.
As consumers turn to financial institutions for more choice in how they connect, interact and transact with a myriad of companies, the future is how banks will deliver a powerful, integrated consumer experience that builds customer loyalty.
William (Bill) Nuti is chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of NCR Corporation.
Posted by: Bill Nuti AT 12:04 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Two years ago Sean Andersen was brought on board the Interactive Services team at Six Flags Theme Parks and was issued a challenge. The company was refreshing all of its in-park digital signage and launching the Six Flags TV network and he was going to lead the charge. Whether he knew it at the time or not, Andersen had become Six Flags' internal champion for digital signage.
"Internal champion" is the term that those in the digital signage industry use to identify the project manager and liaison within the company deploying the digital signage. Aside from managing all of the internal complexities that go along with a digital signage installation, these individuals also must have a firm understanding of the industry they are working with – from screens to content to environmental planning.
Two types of champions
Six Flags TV is now installed in seven of Six Flags' theme parks nationwide and is the result of Andersen's internal championing.
While the internal champion will be the face of the project within his company, there is usually someone above him that is championing the project from the helm.
"You need a senior-level executive that has the vision, the financial resources, the organizational position and the authority to deliver a project that includes many cross-functional aspects," said Rebecca Walt, VP Consulting Services, Out-of-Home Digital Media at Reflect Systems Inc. "This key role is called the executive sponsor."
The executive sponsor must have several key qualities:
1. The authority to execute projects. "The executive sponsor brings other stakeholders to the project such as finance, IT, marketing, advertising, security and other lines of business that may be impacted or could participate," said Lyle Bunn, a digital signage consultant and author of the SPEED digital signage training program.
2. Budget authority. The executive has to have the ability to turn the switch and spend the money on the project. This usually requires close ties with the CEO and CFO and influence over decisions made with the company's budget.
3. Business management skills. He or she doesn't have to have an MBA, but the executive sponsor must have good management skills and business sense in order to have the rest of the company buy in. At the end of the day, the sponsor is going to have to prove a business case for the network.

The internal champion
The internal champion can operate under many monikers – change agent, line of business manager or project manager. Internal champions can come from many departments in the deploying company – marketing, IT, merchandising, to name a few – but what is most important is that the digital signage becomes one of these internal champions' sole responsibilities.
"I believe that in order for a digital signage system to be properly managed and properly refreshed with timely and meaningful content, someone must have 'skin in the game,'" said Mike White, president of Multi-Media Services. "Unless someone's job evaluation and potentially compensation is tied directly to the responsibility of that person, it will likely not be successfully managed and supported."
Internal champions must:
1. Have cross-departmental functionality. The internal champion must coordinate stakeholders in technology, merchandising, store operations, advertising, marketing and other departments to work on the project. He or she has to have the people skills to get them on board, get commitments, delegate responsibility and be the go-to person in the company for all things digital signage.
2. Have an understanding of digital signage and new media. Oftentimes internal champions are brought on board to specifically head up a digital signage project based on their experiences with similar projects, as in Sean Andersen's case.
"The person needs to be excited or motivated to work with technology and embrace digital signage," White said. "They must understand that digital signage is more than just a bunch of fun technology."
3. Have business acumen. The internal champion needs to be one of the most organized and detail-oriented people in the company.
"They need the passion and the skill set to keenly focus on aligning the efforts to the business goals," Walt said.

Bill Yackey is editor of Digital Signage Today.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 10:56 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
In the past, I've ranted about kiosks that are not working. Sometimes that is due to hardware failures, and sometimes those failures are not the fault of the hardware provider. Any time you have electronics plugged into A/C outlets there is a risk of lightening strikes, power surges, brown outs, and more commonly: dirty power. All of these electrical issues can cause hardware to fail, or act abnormally, or even cause the operating system or software to have "issues."
Now a customer who has deployed these kiosks in their retail store, or office building, etc., has probably contracted with a software developer and a separate hardware provider. They may have even used another company for networking, installation or Internet access. So there are a lot of people to point fingers at when things go wrong. Sometimes it is better to use a total kiosk integrator (see my company as an example) who can provide software, hardware and installation so that the customer only has one butt to kick when things go awry. And that integrator will often know what element is causing the problem, and just fix it rather than start the finger pointing game. But a situation like "dirty power" or "line noise" can be hard to troubleshoot, and can make things happen that are unexplainable without a lot of investigation.
This is why it is often a prudent investment to use an A/C line conditioner to prevent this right up front, no matter if you are the integrator or the customer that is buying the kiosk. A small investment (around $150-$175 per unit for a good one) will keep your kiosk from having downtime, possibly losing data or at least losing opportunities when a customer is ready to interact. That could be hundreds or thousands of dollars lost and your reputation tarnished. The small investment makes your total cost of ownership (TOC) lower because, over the life of your kiosk deployment, you will make fewer service calls out in the field, have fewer wasted hours trying to troubleshoot, and fewer wasted hours shooting emails back and forth trying to determine what went wrong. That's hard to see up front when you are planning and budgeting for a deployment, but I hope you will think of this now and save yourself, your partners and your customers a lot of grief.
We are, after all, talking about computer hardware / software in an public space, often un-manned or un-managed. There are enough ways for it to fail like vandalism or sabatoge, that you have a hard time fighting. Why leave open a unprotected A/C line (which you can defend) and have that be the cause of failure? Also, if you are using a cabled ethernet connection, this is another source of danger, as sometimes the surges come across the network or phone lines and not the A/C lines. Protect those points of entry too. I'm not talking about a simple power surge protector here, I'm talking about a quality line conditioner which will prevent line noise or dirty electricity. And they will often have a surge protector built in as well.
As an example, our firm has a client who uses kiosks in a mobile marketing campaign for many large brands. They have non-IT savy staff members traveling all over north America setting up for consumer-facing events. One day a field team called and said that the kiosk had failed. Three quarters of the screen was black, and the software could be seen only on one quadrant. Well, there were lots of ideas as to why this would happen, such as high heat since it was outdoors in a parking lot under a tent. But the temperatures were well within tested temperatures and should not have caused it to fail.
We had our onsite warranty team go and replace the unit.
When the unit was tested later, it worked just fine, even outside in the sun. We later found that they were running the power to the computer kiosk from a generator. Generators are great mobile power sources, but often produce dirty electric sinewaves. A line conditioner was the fix.
There are many available from companies such as tripp lite, APC, ESP and many more. We like the guys at ESP whose product is being integrated more and more in the kiosk industry, often as an option by hardware fabricators. Their products are inside of many large NCR ATM machines, behind a lot of large corporate copiers and expensive electronics. This stuff works great. We even use it to protect our phone system. Our company sells these as an option for new kiosks and can provide them with leased or rented kiosks too. It just makes sense. Now they can be a bit big, so hiding them will take a few more inches than a surge protector, but its worth the protection and the uptime you will not ever think about.
Peace of mind? Or prudent planning? As long as you protect your investment and your reputation, I think you're one smart kiosk integrator!
Tim Burke is the owner of Electronic Art. This column originally appeared here.
Posted by: Tim Burke AT 12:01 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 03 March 2009
Self-service healthcare is not an oxymoron. In fact, it just might be an opportunity whose time has come. Driven by significant advances in Internet, mobile and kiosk technologies, and the rise of the "Information Omnivore" — a well-informed, empowered consumer — the time seems ripe for emergence of personalized self-service healthcare, where consumers play a more active role in the evaluation and management of their medical well-being.
As smart technology, infused with intelligence, continues to make pertinent information more accessible, healthcare experts believe such progress could ultimately lead to increased compliance to treatment regimes, a healthier population and potentially lower healthcare costs. In some quarters, it is already happening. Self-service technology is currently available to help healthcare patients register for services, retrieve information, navigate their way through a facility and settle accounts.
This consumerization of healthcare could mean it won't be long before patients expect the same level of self-service convenience in healthcare that they can now get in an airport or a traditional retail store and a growing number of other industries. I am convinced that if self-service can be linked to patients' primary care doctors and the doctor-patient relationship in a meaningful way, it can be a very powerful healthcare offering. Just as self-service kiosks for airplanes are linked to the airlines.
Technology providers who aggressively pursue solutions that meet these emerging expectations could help clients reduce their costs and improve overall staff productivity. Such health management tools could help clinicians and patients alike benefit from the availability of patient information. Technology could be the catalyst needed to move information from the doctor's file folder to an easily accessible self-service kiosk, or online Web browser.
An interesting healthcare trend I've noticed recently is the rapid growth of retail clinics in such places as strip malls, CVS stores, Wal-Marts, shopping centers and other locations. During 2007, there were roughly 750 of these clinics in the U.S., all run by licensed physicians managing a group of licensed practical nurses. The total represents growth of almost four times the number that existed in 2006, with analysts predicting the number of clinics to continue their annual growth in double-digits even in tough economic times.
Yet, in spite of its promise, self-service healthcare has several inhibitors, including privacy regulations, initial cost of capital, a clear return on investment and overall user acceptance. However, we believe that the focus on healthcare reform and cost reduction on a broader scale will trickle down and begin to manifest itself in leveraging self-service solutions to improve both cost and efficiency. In addition, growing consumer dissatisfaction with such things as the inconvenient process of waiting rooms, paperwork, calls to insurance companies and pre-authorizations, could help accelerate the deployment of self-service solutions.
As self-service continues to spread rapidly across multiple industries, healthcare truly represents the next major frontier. Consumers are getting more and more comfortable with self-service technology. They enjoy the option of "serving themselves" for many common tasks. Self-service is now viewed by many consumers as a critical element of outstanding consumer service. The most familiar examples include ATMs, check-in at airports and self-checkout systems in retail stores.
When talking about the consumerization of self-service, we see a combination of touch points for consumer interaction, such as the home computer, mobile devices and kiosks in multiple industry establishments. With multiple interaction points, it is important to ensure a common brand image, data sharing and integration to back-end systems, to make certain that the consumer receives a consistent and intuitive experience regardless of where and how they interact with your business.
The proliferation of self-service technology in the healthcare industry presents both a challenge and opportunity. A key challenge is growing user confidence and acceptance — a much higher threshold to overcome than self-service solutions for a grocery store or apparel retailer. More is at stake if something goes wrong. A challenge to businesses deploying self-service solutions is choosing the right platform. The platform capabilities and other critical requirements must be in place to ensure the solution is deployed successfully — scalability, performance, open standards, security, integration with other health information systems, and systems management to name a few. Consumers will not accept self-service options that are not reliable or secure, or that have slow performance. The software infrastructure is also critical to ensuring the self-service solutions can connect with the appropriate back-end systems such as patient records.
Challenges notwithstanding, I am convinced that the opportunities are endless. Consumers are projected to spend over $1 trillion through self-service kiosks by 2011, according to IHL Research, which affirms a September 2007 IBM study that showed consumers becoming more and more comfortable with self-service as a way to access additional resources when it is convenient for them.
  • Eighty-one percent of consumers indicated their reasons for choosing to use self-service technology over human interaction is that it allowed them to access information and services outside of normal business hours.
  • Sixty-nine percent said they expect more and more businesses to offer a self-service option.
  • Fifty-two percent revealed they are very comfortable using self-service technology, with roughly 50 percent indicating their usage of self-service devices had gone up during the past year.
  • Almost half of consumers would use self-service technology in lieu of human interaction to get more personal information such as accessing human resources or benefits information at work (45 percent) and checking in and reviewing medical history at a doctor's office (40 percent).
  • More than 33 percent of consumers said they would like additional resources available to them while they shop.
As is the case with a number of today's service establishments, there might not always be a person waiting to answer your questions, or the waiting line might be too long, causing you to leave. Studies have shown that consumers will wait a maximum of 3-4 minutes before they get frustrated and potentially leave. What if you're at a drug store and the line is several people deep? All you want to know is whether to take certain non-prescription medication with your prescription medicine. A kiosk could help you get your question answered almost instantly. And self-service kiosks are more private. There are medical questions and issues you just don't want to talk about to a live person, but you may need the information. In some cases, you can search it out online, however, if you're in store, an in-store kiosk could be used.
It's about providing smarter, more convenient solutions for consumers. Although it's not the only solution, self-service kiosks could serve as a valuable extension to access information from electronic medical records systems, and to obtain prescription information, and other online customer data, products and services.
Self-service could be just what the doctor ordered — a fast and convenient option for consumers, and a boon for innovative, consumer-driven IT vendors ready and willing to pursue an opportunity that I believe is the next great frontier for a growing self-service economy.
Posted by: Norma Wolcott AT 11:00 am   |  Permalink   |  
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