The 2006 Self-Service World Market Survey creates an interesting portrait of the self-service landscape. The report details responses from companies that have deployed self-service devices. Some of its findings are surprising, given what we see every day.
HR kiosks. The survey (published by NetWorld Alliance, which owns SelfServiceWorld.com and SelfService.org) showed that self-service for human resources is underutilized. I believe that’s the case because they don’t have an obvious, up-front return. They’re not transactional; they don’t sell anything. One cannot say, “We’ll install X number of HR kiosks in our stores which will net Y number of transactions, creating Z number of dollars per day.” Without the obvious revenue case, they take a back seat in the industry to ATMs, ticketing kiosks, and sales-and marketing devices.
One of the hardest things to find in our innovative industry is a good statistic, especially as companies exploit self-service technology to build custom-branded solutions.
-- Bryan Harris,
Also, the return on investment of an HR kiosk seems twice removed. For example, when confronting an operations executive with the case that HR kiosks reduce the required man hours to seek, train and organize employees, the time savings to managers who would otherwise be processing background checks and vacation days by hand doesn’t seem like such a direct benefit. After all, the company will still pay managers to be doing something during those hours. It’s a little short-sighted, but it’s how people think.
Yet, HR kiosks are valuable. Given their instant background-check capabilities, they make it easier to capture, evaluate and hire qualified employees. What’s more, they solve compliance issues for companies that require standardized skills testing for safety and equipment training. There are plants now with machinery that will not start for employees that aren’t properly trained and tested to use it. Also, they can slow turnover, expedite rehiring, and increase managers’ productivity time – three benefits valuable to any company. It is hard in contrast to quantify “increased manager’s productive time” as a figure in a quarterly report.
Internet kiosks. Reading further, I’m surprised “Internet access kiosks” rank as the No. 1 deployment, ahead of POS systems and ATMs, and I think the numbers come from a semantic misunderstanding. I (and many inside the industry) think of an Internet kiosk as one with which users can browse the Web. I’m skeptical those machines out-number ATMs. Very likely, individuals took that question to address that type but also those that merely access a deployer’s Web site or Web-based interface as part of their routine functionality.
Wayfinding. I’m also amazed that more respondents deployed wayfinding kiosks than did ticketing, price lookup, photo kiosks, airline self-check-in, gift registry and pay-at-the-pump, given the seemingly scant appearance of wayfinding kiosks and the ubiquity of the others. This is a purely anecdotal observation, but given that I’ve never seen a wayfinding kiosk in the field and I frequently use ATMs and pay-at-the pump, it seems strange to me that there are that many wayfinding kiosks in the field.
Digital signage. Digital signs, loyalty and interactive marketing machines are all high priorities in the next 12 months, and as much so in the next five years, according to deployers. As we increasingly see convergence with the digital sign industry, or digital signs used in conjunction with kiosks or conferencing equipment to make them interactive, this statistic reinforces the notion that kiosks and digital signs are at least marrying, if not becoming one.
Perhaps the best conclusion this report illustrates is that we need to do many more reports on the kiosk industry. One of the hardest things to find in our innovative industry is a good statistic, especially as companies exploit self-service technology to build custom-branded solutions. And that’s why this information is important, and these questions need to be asked.