Self-service technology is having a transformative effect on the world around us, particularly on consumer behaviour.
The benefits of using kiosks in customer service are becoming increasingly apparent. You can visit your favourite restaurant and, rather than ordering at the counter, you’ll be able to tap the order on a touch screen kiosk and get the food straight to your table instead. You can even ask for specific ingredients to be included or removed from the order.
This raises an interesting question: how is this shift going to impact consumer behaviour, and can we expect to see a trend away from face-to-face customer service?
Put simply, yes! According to research from IBM, 85% of customer interactions will be handled automatically by 2020. It’s clearly a massively significant trend in customer service, but could it also result in a change in when we make purchases, how often we make them, and how likely we are to spend money? Again, the answer seems to be yes.
Ryan Buell, Associate Professor of Service Management at Harvard Business School writes that we should be prepared for a “dizzying array of service innovations on the horizon.” According to the Buell, self-service technology in general changes the way consumers think and can, therefore, have a huge impact on their behaviour.
We’ve listed some of the ways self-service technology is profoundly effecting consumer behaviour:
Greater customer satisfaction
Self-service technology was designed to increase convenience, and that’s what self-service kiosks are doing. Among people who love to do things for themselves and have control of situations, the technology couldn’t have come at a better time. It speeds up service delivery, minimises delays, and completely removes the stress associated with waiting.
Research by Taylor and Francis points to a “positive and significant relationship between [self-service technology] and service quality, loyalty and behavioural intentions.” The result is usually happier customers who are more willing to try the service again, leading to increased sales.
Removing social pressures
It’s common to feel self-conscious when ordering food at a restaurant. For example, you may feel socially pressured into ordering a smaller meal than you’d like from a fast food restaurant as you feel like the person behind the counter might be judging you.
Self-service kiosks help to remove this social pressure, allowing consumers to pick whatever they like without the risk of judgement.
Another benefit of this is that it tends to increase the average spend for customers. As Jackie Prange of TouchBistro points out, “one of the glorious benefits of this customer-facing technology is the effect it’ll have on your average check size.” Not only does self-service technology help customers feel more comfortable, it can also have hugely positive effects on profits.
An increase in “special instructions”
This is an interesting one. When people go the counter, they usually just describe their order in as few words as possible. But, when interacting with self-service kiosks, they seem to go into greater detail. On average, there is a 14% rise in special instructions when people use these machines.
There are a number of potential reasons for this. It’s possible that customers don’t yet trust self-service technology to understand their order. Or perhaps it’s the judgement-free environment?
According to Professor Buell, it’s a combination of the judgement free-environment and the fact that consumers feel that because machines don’t get tired or worn out, they can feed them as many instructions as they wish.
Increased market share for difficult to pronounce items
Studies conducted at the National University of Singapore, Rotman School of Management, and Duke’s Fuqua School show that when a store changes from face-to-face to self-service, more orders are recorded for hard to pronounce products. In liquor stores, for instance, changing to self-service technology has been shown to increase orders by 8.4%.
The main reason for this, according to researchers, is that consumers fear being misunderstood or appearing unsophisticated in front of the clerks. Self-service kiosks remove that social friction.
Although the technology faces a myriad of challenges, there is no denying that self-service kiosks are an incredible tool for businesses as well as digital consumers. It gives consumers the freedom they desire while at the same time allowing vendors to sell more products.
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