Why Investing in Digital Kiosks is the Way of the Future
Before I joined Speedwell I was a Store Manager at national electronic retailer. Over the last five years I managed small teams of five, to large teams of twenty five. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the very ugly in regards to all aspects of retail. I understand just how much pressure there is for all team members’ at all levels of the organisation, who strive to achieve the same goal: to survive, and have enough money to open the doors tomorrow.
As a Store Manager, I had a number of key accountabilities as part of my roll. The main three were Safety, Loss Prevention, and Staff Training and Development. Over the five years I have experienced a number of issues with staff that a digital kiosk would have reduced if not eliminated. Every decision you make as a manager has a direct effect on the team below and it is sometimes difficult to not let emotion get in the way of making those tough decisions, around reducing a staff members hours to meet our very tight wage costs. If a digital kiosk could have taken the load of some of the team’s responsibilities, more time could be focused on selling our products and services which in return would have increased our revenue.
In retail, we were told repeatedly-. “There is no task too important that we can’t do it safely.” Surprisingly I found that processing the transaction to be sometimes the most stressful as you can see the customer wants to just pay and leave. That customer who is told they will be served in a minute starts to give the death stares. The customer service representative feels pressured to work faster. Their adrenalin kicks in and all in a split second have crushed there fingers in the till drawer or some other blow up occurs. It is then the responsibility of the Manager to take control of the situation. It means you lose a staff member off the floor and the manager from the store for multiple hours, while the injured staff member is escorted to the doctor, and a mountain of paperwork follows. The entire process can cost a company between eight hours to multiple days in labour investigating the incident, and not to mention the lost revenue from upset customers, who didn’t want to wait the extra time to be served. As previously said Retail is a stressful environment and the cost of stress claims on workplaces has reached $300million per year according to James Thomson from Smartcompany.com.au. Under the new disability discrimination laws, workplace stress must be treated like any other disability in the workplace, with a documented back to work plan for the employee.
A kiosk will remove opportunity for personal gain for a dishonest staff member. Any business Owner or Manager who says and thinks that “Staff theft in my company doesn’t happen” are kidding themselves. According to the Australian Retailers Association, $7.5 billion each year has cost the Australian sector alone in theft, and $1.65 Billion of that is because of staff theft. According to Business.com.au, Due to the tough economic times with the rise in cost of living and wages being cut Retail theft has increased by 5.6% in the last 18 months. Retail theft forms part of the largest crime categories in Australia. The amount of time I had to waste investigating cash variances was significant. A self-serve kiosk would have removed this time consuming task.
Staff Training and Development
A significant amount of time, effort and money is put into training and developing team members only to achieve a very basic task such as asking the right questions or processing a sale. Anyone who has worked or is currently working in any form of a sales roll would have some sales guideline they have to work through in order to achieve their target. These include greet the customer, evaluate their needs, offer the complete package, handle the objection, ask for the sale and invite back. Some people find these instructions difficult to follow and sometimes intimidating. Computer programmers can write a very basic algorithm for a digital kiosk to ask these questions. A digital kiosk can take rejection; it can take abuse day in day out. A human being not so much.
I had an honest discussion years ago, with the National Loss Prevention Officer for a major supermarket chain here in Australia just after they started rolling out self-serve checkouts in their stores. I asked him if they found that their shrinkage had increased, from customers not being honest and scanning all their items through. He replied that the odd dishonest customer does not cost the company nearly as much as the dishonest employee. He did say that not all employees were dishonest. He used the example of six self-serve registers. Besides their initial cost, the registers do not cost anything except maintenance and power. If a packet of Tim Tams doesn’t get scanned through, either by accident or dishonesty, it isn’t going to affect the company too much. However, if you have six manned registers, you have to pay wages & superannuation. Items are sometimes not scanned through (usually by accident,) but this is offset by the reduction of theft of cash by the employee.” Self-serve kiosks will save us millions……” he said.
As far as I’m aware, the new Masters stores, (owned by Woolworths) is the first company to only have self-serve kiosks, and have no traditional manned checkouts. I remember going in to one of their stores on opening day. There was a gentleman standing at one of the registers with a hand full of products. “WHY WON’T ANYONE SERVE ME!!!!” He yelled at the top of his voice. “I REFUSE TO SHOP IN A STORE AND BE EXPECTED TO SERVE MY SELF!!!!” Unfortunately there will always be some people who are afraid of change.
I believe Digital Kiosks are our future. That said, before throwing out your old Casio cash register, ask yourself: “Who is my Customer?” If you are the owner of a local small business and your customer is the socialite that comes in to have a chat about the football score the night before, then introducing a self-serve kiosk may be a few years away for you yet. However if your customer wants to just “get in and get out, then a kiosk will put you ahead of your competitors