Why Merchants Need Self-Service Solutions Now More Than Ever

By: Tyler Wells, North American Sales Manager at MicroTouch

You’ve probably heard that if you are performing repetitive and simple tasks that you can easily automate by tech, then you’re wasting your time. In 2023, it’s more than a principle for optimizing processes or making it possible to take some time off on the weekends. It’s a pivotal truth for business survival. Self-service solutions are helping merchants across a wide range of verticals do more with less staff and control costs at one of the most challenging times in their history.

A Solution for the Labor Shortage
Businesses in the U.S. began 2023 with a collective 11 million job openings and no signs that the labor shortage would end soon. As a result, consumer-facing businesses are looking for ways to adapt their operations while still providing excellent customer experiences. Self-service solutions, such as kiosks, self-checkout, and interactive digital signage, enable customers to perform some tasks on their own and merchants to reallocate labor to where it’s needed most.

Self-service is a practical solution for operating with fewer employees, but it’s also a way to increase customer satisfaction. Consumers don’t want to wait in line for assistance from an associate. They prefer self-service. For example, an IBM survey found that 71 percent of consumers prefer self-checkout. It’s a way to give customers the autonomy they crave and give employees the freedom to focus on other responsibilities.

A Solution for Inflation
It may seem counterintuitive, but an investment in self-service solutions now can help merchants’ bottom lines. Implementing a kiosk may cost roughly as much as hiring, training, and paying a part-time employee for a year. But at the end of the year, the merchant sees a healthy ROI.

Additionally, kiosks upsell consistently and allow consumers to explore all services a business offers or all products in its inventory, resulting in higher sales. Restaurants, for example, can see a bump in average ticket size of 15-20 percent.

Kiosks are also scalable – both up and down – when the volume of business changes. Inflation will force some tough choices about staff in days ahead and can help merchants ramp up practically when there’s a spike in traffic and scale back without fewer layoffs.

What Self-Service Solutions Can Do for Your Business
Self-service solutions have become commonplace in department stores, grocery stores, and quick- service restaurants (QSRs). However, they also have the potential to help businesses in different sectors weather today’s challenges:

  • Food trucks: The small staff in a food truck can focus on order prep when customers place their own orders and make payments on a kiosk.
  • Hotels: Self-check-in allows guests to skip the line at the desk and sign agreements, enter payment card data, get a room key or keycode, and even request additional services.
  • Doctors’ and Dentists’ Offices: Self-check-in solutions allow office staff to focus on patient care versus entering health care coverage data, ensuring authorizations are current, and taking copays.
  • Trains, bus lines, and subways: Self-service ticketing enable commuters to pay fares more quickly, shorten lines, and keep service on schedule.
  • Airports: Kiosks give travelers the convenience of checking in and purchasing luggage tags, and the TSA leverages kiosks for its Clear security screening program.
  • Entertainment venues: Sports fans and theatergoers can purchase and print their own tickets, decreasing the need for labor at the box office and getting people to their seats before the action starts.

What More Can Self-Service Do for Your Business?
Another thing to keep in mind about self-service solutions is that they’re more than off-the-shelf ordering kiosks or self-checkout systems. They can meet a range of other needs. For example, they can automate reception or guard stations, allowing visitors to check in, inform staff they’ve arrived, and direct them to parking areas or open a door. They can also be designed to manage buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) or returns, offer endless aisle solutions, provide infotainment to patients during treatment, and allow consumers to join or manage loyalty programs.

A kiosk or touchscreen manufacturer can point you in the right direction of software companies or value-added resellers who can help you create a self-service solution for your specific needs and integrate it with your IT environment for optimal efficiency, real-time data, and the best customer experiences.

A time of uncertainty with the economy and the labor market may have some businesses circling the wagons and shying away from innovation. But remember another saying: “Challenges create opportunities.” Moving forward with new processes can help your business do more than survive – you can thrive with the edge you create with self-service solutions.

About the Author
Tyler Wells is the North American Sales Manager for MicroTouch. Since joining the company in July 2021, he has focused on developing sales and implementing the US distribution strategy. He brings over 14 years of experience in the built-for-purpose computer hardware and sports entertainment industry. Prior to joining MicroTouch, Tyler served as the Global Distribution Sales Manager and Manager of Business Development at Mimo Monitors, Marketing and Business consultant for DYT Solutions, and Inside Ticket Sales for Red Bull. Tyler has a degree in Marketing Management from the University of Wyoming.