Saturday, June 16, 2007

Improving self-service kiosks: taking a lesson from our IVR brethren is running a story about self-service of a different kind: interactive voice response (IVR) systems for call centers, those often-dreaded "press 0 from a touch-tone phone) automatons designed to improve efficiency by forcing the user down one of a number of predetermined paths to handle the most common call reasons.

While there are certainly numerous differences between this sort of self-service and the kiosk variety, the article raises some points that are equally applicable to both. Let's have a look at their list:

Creating meaningful self-service solutions
"Self-service solutions improve satisfaction ratings by providing customers with instant access to information and services." While the article focuses on the combined use of live voice and IVR, we can certainly see how this would extend to in-store self-service solutions. Self-service solution providers can create meaningful transactions by providing a simple, good experience that delivers real value to the customer.

• Speak in a common language
"Your customers don’t always understand your jargon, including the names of products or services created by well-meaning marketing folks. Save the abbreviations, acronyms and nicknames for company memos and speak plainly to your customers." Again, the same is true for retail self-service. Just because your marketing department knows what your buzzwords and acronyms mean, that doesn't mean that your customers will. Given that many still approach interactive kiosks with some degree of intimidation, solution providers should work hard to ensure that the application being provided is intuitive and easy to understand.

• Make it fast and easy
"Don’t bombard your novice customers with too many options – you’ll just confuse them. Also, consider both novice and experienced users. This means you should enable 'barge-in' capabilities and give your 'power users' options for bypassing directions and prompts they don’t need." Again we can see a direct correlation with IVR and kiosk systems here. A good kiosk application should be optimized for the one or two key functions that will get used by the most people. The method to complete the function should be fast and easy, with as few touch screen or button-clicks as possible.

• Make it easy for callers to reach an agent
I'd re-write this one as "make it easy to get help." Whether this means using a live audio/video/chat button to get help directly from the device, or placing the kiosks in an area where sales staff can provide assistance if needed, depends on both the application and the environment.

• Treat callers with respect
Treat users with respect. Don't assume that the average user is a moron, but by the same token don't assume they're a computer genius either. Make your interface fast and simple, but not patronizing. Likewise, ensure that your support system -- whether electronic, human, or some combination of both -- understands that using a self-service terminal is a means to an end, and that they should be prepared to respectfully instruct patrons.

• Take errors seriously
"Do not insult callers with 'invalid input' responses. That might make sense to your IT department, but it won’t to your customers." Instead, make error messages clear, concise and easy to understand. Or better yet, make your application so simple that there's virtually no way to get an error message in the first place.

• Extend your branding when choosing your solution’s 'persona'
"A fabulous experience with your ... self-service solution will re-enforce your brand and build customer loyalty. Select [a solution] that will project the image and style of your organization." An unbranded or custom-branded kiosk application sticks out like a sore thumb. Take the extra time to integrate the system with the look-and-feel found elsewhere in the environment, taking cues from the brick-and-mortar location and the customer's web site.

• Personalize the experience wherever possible
Loyalty programs feed off of customers' love for being identified as "special." These programs do this by keeping a history of customer activity, and trying to provide helpful tips based on past purchases and habits. Self-service systems can certainly take advantage of this technique as well, though in general my preference is to opt for simple over customized. Per-customer customizations can potentially raise conversion rates and usage of the system, but they can also complicate the offering quite a bit, so that definitely needs to be taken into consideration during the planning phase.

Tags: self-service, kiosks

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Channel M targets kiddie gyms for Hasbro/Playskool kiosks

There's something both alluring and decidedly sneaky about marketing to children out-of-home. Of course, the same could be said for marketing to them in home as well, as anybody who has ever watched even just a half hour of Saturday morning TV will tell you. But outside of the home environment, there other factors that come into play - including the powerful but unpredictable mom-will-do-anything-to-get-the-kid-to-stop-crying - that makes out-of-home marketing to kids quite interesting.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so, too. According to this article at MediaPost, Channel M is installing interactive kiosks into 350 My Gym children's play centers with the goal of pushing Playskool and Hasbro products like Play-Doh:

Channel M has branded the cubbies and installed kiosks that display Hasbro's Play-Doh and Playskool products.

The agency bills the arrangement as an integrated partnership whose goal is to increase children's hand-eye coordination, dexterity, balance, and agility by joining Play-Doh products with select My Gym classes.

My Gym instructors include product samples for children ages 2 to 5, advancing kids' fine and gross motor, cognitive and sensory development, while playing with Play-Doh. And here you thought it was a toy.

In addition, children ages 3 and up who attend a birthday party at a My Gym Children's Fitness Center receive a booklet showing them how to make My Gym's mascot, Mymo the Monkey, out of Play-Doh. Parents can find a coupon in the booklet good toward Play-Doh's "Make 'n' Display" line of products.

Noting a correlation between Play-Doh use and manual dexterity is interesting, but I'd like to know how much that actually factored into the product/venue selection. I do think that the take-home booklet (undoubtedly filled with more soft marketing) is a great idea, though, since kids typically love those things, and any way of moving more brand messaging into the home (especially when the consumer takes it for themselves) must be viewed in a positive light by the manufacturers.

Tags: Channel M, interactive kiosks, retail marketing

Friday, June 01, 2007

Microsoft's Surface takes a new twist on touchscreen tech

Sorry for the awful alliteration - hadn't noticed it until it was too late :) While Elo and others have offered infra-red (IR) and camera-based touch screens like the CarrolTouch for a while, and IBM has used them in products like the Anyplace Kiosk for a few years now, it took Microsoft to make them exciting and sexy for the mass market. Their new Surface technology combines multiple cameras together on top of a projection screen to create a multi-touch capable surface that takes the computer "desktop" metaphor to a whole new level.

While Microsoft has been pitching the thing as an interactive coffee-table type thing designed for in-home use, the $5-10K price tag ensures that the first few adopters will be a bunch of technophiles with too much spending money, and, more importantly, businesses trying to use the device to advance their own goals.

While most of today's crop of self-service applications are optimized for quick, streamlined user interactions that don't require the use of a multi-touch device (heck, the applications we deploy usually don't even allow for mouse dragging), as users become more tech savvy and applications become more complex, I think there could be applications that could make good use of such a novel interface.

Tags: interactive kiosks, self-service, Surface