Why Good Kiosks Go Bad: How Remote Management Can Help

Retailers know that maximizing ROI per square foot is key to success. That's why many retailers turn to self-service kiosks - powerful tools for engaging customers, improving sales, and freeing staff to deliver better service.

Self-service kiosks (DVD rental, photo finishing, product promotion, banking, health information, check-outs) often increase purchase options, boost impulse sales, lower per transaction costs and dispense marketing information. Additionally, they extend service beyond standard business hours and expand product offerings to locations where it does not make economic sense to staff retail outlets. In a time of thin margins and increased competition, kiosks can boost the bottom line.

Effective kiosks combine well-written software with reliable hardware; however, budgetary and time constraints and a lack of a proactive support often cause an otherwise solid kiosk network deployment to go bad. If deployment timelines are rushed, test schedules become compromised and lead to service issues. Compounding the issue is the fact that many retailers employ reactive support plans and problems go unresolved until customers complain or staff notices them. Support incidents frequently cost upwards of $200 each to resolve and reactive plans leave retailers without proactive capabilities that can nip these issues in the bud. Unfortunately, kiosks cannot deliver a solid ROI if they're not running reliably.

If kiosks are not monitored, managed, and serviced, they can run out of stock, go down for prolonged periods, eat up (rather than free up) staff time, and diminish customer service. In addition, customers will not be able to access products or services, update accounts, or participate in surveys. Staff will have to serve customers who could have used kiosks, call technicians, or resolve issues they are not qualified to deal with.

It is possible to manually manage a handful of kiosks that are not geographically dispersed; however, when retailers employ dozens, hundreds, or thousands of kiosks over multiple locations, kiosk management becomes a very important issue. For instance, trying to update software in a multiple kiosk environment is difficult. Inefficiencies arise when software updates are distributed using CDs or USB keys. Relying on store staff or technicians to manually install software leads to time lags and other issues.

Unfortunately, most organizations have gaps in their ability to view and manage kiosks remotely, let alone introduce operational efficiencies of a single source management platform. Maintaining visibility of kiosk status, controlling a consistent user experience, and generating feedback becomes laborious and unpredictable if kiosks are not remotely managed. In an extreme instance, a simple service issue requiring a 30-second activity could go unreported for hours or days and the retailer may miss countless transactions. Remote monitoring and management is an essential tool in establishing a measurable, scalable, reliable, and cost-effective self-service solution.

Fully-integrated remote management systems enable retailers to:
-- Remotely distribute content, promotional and pricing updates and software and firmware releases in a timely and efficient manner

-- Reduce downtime and operational costs by minimizing errors
Increase customer satisfaction and expand revenue by offering value-added services and customizing standard offerings

-- Diagnose complex issues and dispatch technicians armed with the right tools
Generate customized reports and share business intelligence with appropriate stakeholders

Remote management enables visibility and control over the operational status of kiosks by flagging service issues and immediately implementing corrective action. With a clear picture of operational status, business rules can be applied based on the most appropriate course of action, including notifying retail staff of consumable inventory issues, informing helpdesk of application errors, implementing automatic reboot and self-healing option and more. Self-healing reduces the cost of servicing kiosks on-site. In addition, when technicians service kiosks, they can log issues and corrective actions in a centralized knowledge database for future reference.

Remotely monitored kiosks also save energy costs because kiosks can be automatically turned on/off at appropriate times. For instance, the system can be programmed to come on at 8:30 AM (local time) and to shut down at 9:15 PM on weekdays and at 6:15 PM on weekends. Times can be changed based on store hours and holiday periods. Not only does this save energy, but it also means local staff does not have to turn on/off kiosks when they are busy opening/closing stores.

In short, remote management of self-service kiosks boosts sales, keeps customers satisfied, frees staff time to serve other customers, maximizes the efficiency of technicians, provides management with relevant data about sales and customer interactions, lowers the overall cost of managing kiosks and maximizes ROI.

Asad Jobanputra has been involved in the self-service industry since 1999. As Director of Application Solutions for Esprida Corporation, Asadâ's primary responsibility is to foster innovation and to manage Esprida's Fortune 1000 technical delivery teams.
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