Tuesday, 11 August 2009

UK trends - self service

Some time ago I read a Time magazine article saying that a revolution in self-service was going to be one of the next big things. I had my doubts but on a recent trip to the UK I was surprised to see that this is well underway. To my surprise I kind of liked it much more than I thought...

I experienced it in KFC, Safeway and Argos (traditionally a catalogue store, now Amazon-like with online channel plus high-street outlets). 3 slightly different stores with their own unique problems to solve.

  1. In KFC touch-screens basically mimic a menu, you pick yourself and swipe your card to pay. Only at food collection do you have to try and interact with the spotty teenager with a lot to learn about customer service.
  2. Argos, well basically a touch-screen catalogue. For a while now you've entered the catalogue number on a mini-terminal to see if it's in stock but now you do the whole order plus payment.
  3. Safeway, well you can join the checkout queue or skip it and do the barcode scanning yourself. Pop the item in your bag and it's weighed to make sure that you're not skipping the scan. If something is a problem then one assistant hovers around 10 or so terminals to help out, dramatically cutting staff costs, customer queues and in the end lowering prices.

So why now?

Well, older generations are becoming more comfortable with technology (though alternatives are still offered), touch-screen technology is vastly improved and I guess sometimes the only way to get good customer service is to do it yourself!