Self-service technology is becoming essential in retail businesses

According to VDC Research Group, retailing, hospitality and health-care firms spent $2.8 billion on self-service technology in 2008. Between now and 2013 their investment will grow by around 15% a year.

Gartner, a research firm, estimates that nearly 60% of customers prefer to check themselves whether an item is in stock at a store, often through a self-service kiosk or their mobile phone, instead of relying on an employee. When done well, self-service can even increase customer loyalty. According to NCR, which makes self-service technology, 85% of consumers prefer brands that offer several forms of self-service: online, at kiosks and via mobiles.

The main reason why companies are so keen on self-service, however, is cost. On average, transactions performed through kiosks cost a tenth of what they would have had an employee handled them, according to Summit Research Associates. The savings come chiefly from replacing employees with machines, which do not require health benefits or a salary. According to Francie Mendelsohn, the president of Summit Research Associates, each self-service checkout at a grocery store replaces around 2.5 employees. The recession has made the savings from self-service especially welcome. Companies claim they do not fire employees but redeploy them to do more important work. Self-service technology may provide other ways of helping companies through straitened times.

Visit the Self Service, Kiosk and Digital Signage Exhibition at Londons Olympia 30 Sept 1 Oct 2009. Now in its fourth year, KioskComs Self Service Expo and The Digital Signage Show are key events for anyone looking to stay ahead in customer service.


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