How do customers perceive self-service technology?

Today  E-commerce and App based cars bring self-service technology to masses. Introduction to self service concept happened when departmental store allowed customer to browse aisles and pick items/goods by self. Self service checkout counters  existed in USA for customer to complete purchase without human intervention;though not prevalent in India.

Do retail managers understand customer needs in a self-service offering?  Does offering create a desired experience and excitement in customer?. This blogs explores whether retail firms have got self-service technology completely right.

Retail firms starts, being sold concept by IT firms that customers want self-service and will happily explore options. One observes that customers are slow in using a self-service behavior change that differs widely from current behavior. Firms miss customer need for interaction with human being during a self-service experience. Customers need more human intervention when they have difficulty to understand the new offering in action.

During technology failure in process, customers look for a safety net and explicitly want an employee to be available. May be firms cannot save in labor costs in the initial days. Once customers get know-how and maturity with new offering or new change, the customer need for employees gets reduced,  Now becomes time for firms to plan for redeployment  existing employees elsewhere in the company. In addition, self-service technology serve as facilitator to customer &  the employee.

Retail firms assume that self-service will provide more convenience. Convenience means “customer choose how and when the interaction takes place”. Firms rate the influence of convenience as more important to accuracy. Customers value both convenience and accuracy. Customers are concerned whether offering convenience impacts/affects the accuracy of a transaction.   Does self-service technology enables customers to review and verify their orders to have greater accuracy?

In retail outlet, physical location of a self-service impacts convenience. when location has less visibility or is not easy to access, location gets ignored by customers. Once customer is evident of the convenience of a self-service technology, participation of customer in trial and adoption can happen much more quickly.

Retail firms assume that convenience is more important than speed of the transaction, Speed of transaction has strong influence on customer satisfaction. Retail stores that want to emphasis on transaction speed needs to think about store layout, appropriate spacing, and placement are important for avoiding bottlenecks.

As a customer myself, Do I shy away from self-service? No. Do I prefer self-service to employee-led options? Depends. Do self-service technologies always deliver expected user experience? NO

Retail firms need to understand what customers want prior to being sold on self-service technologies.While self-service options enable cost-cutting for firm, there needs awareness that firm is not forced upon with a sunk-cost technology that nobody wants to use leading to disenchanted customers.