The Perspective 
Tuesday, 12 September 2006
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.

start quoteOne 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.end quote

-- Bryan Harris,
Editor, SelfService.org

 
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.
Posted by: Bryan Harris AT 02:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 30 May 2006
Editors usually wait until the end of the year to pick favorites, but I've seen so many fascinating self-service innovations in my recent travels, I’d like to discuss some of the most interesting solutions to surface so far in 2006.
 
Government: Pay-Ease is continually upgrading its ACM (automated commerce machine) to include more new features. They’ve found a healthy market for the machines in government applications, like paying parking tickets and printing parking permits. They’ve also been testing check cashing applications. Soon, rumor has it, they’ll find another healthy market for card-printing on-demand – and it’s not the flooded loyalty card market that similar machines keep splitting. Find more information at www.pay-ease.com.
 
Healthcare: Dr. Jack Goldstein in Pawtucket, R.I. developed AutomationMed, a medical tracking system that’s deployed not only in the lobby of his clinic, where patients use it, but in the examination rooms as well. Goldstein can input medical data as he diagnoses patients. Over time, it tracks outcomes data to correlate which treatments are most effective for which problems. The program’s question fields can be swapped around for other medical specialists. The data is stored in universally recognizable formats, designed to be mined for medical research. What’s more: a doctor can cross-reference his accounting databases to see which treatments are most profitable. The software can be purchased at www.automationmed.com and deployed on a kiosk or waiting room computer.
 
Retail: The LiveSupport customer service software by Experticity, which Microsoft included at their Retail Systems booth in May is revolutionary for stores that want to offer sterling information without losing the personal touch. Meanwhile, Clarience 1:1 by Retaligent Solutions Inc., which I first saw at the NRF show in New York and, more recently, at Retail Systems in a newly upgraded form, is the end-to-end solution of choice for retailers needing to offer human service with high-tech empowerment.
 
Networking: Ventus Networks’ secure cellular financial network is a novel system. The company’s engineers have devised a way to keep their virtual private network from dropping off of the cellular system even as the signal gets rotated from tower to tower. Ventus remotely manages the ATMs on the network from their corporate headquarters in Connecticut. From there, technicians can monitor a number of key indicators from up-time to signal strength. The most recent upgrade of their cellular router can accept any kind of cellular network chip.
 
Payment: The Verifone MX870 mini-kiosk is an upgrade to the typical price checking kiosk which customers are used to seeing (or, often, not seeing, due to their size). The MX870 solves much of the invisibility problem many mini-kiosks suffer by offering sound and full-color video. It also offers Triple DES secure payment and signature capture capabilities.
 
These are just a few of many great self-service solutions, and the rest of the year will certainly yield many more.
Posted by: Bryan Harris AT 01:58 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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