Friday, October 11, 2013

Tell Shiitakes from Shinola

In a Wall Street Journal column, Farhad Manjoo pointed out the liabilities of self-service technologies (SSTs), in this case, self-checkout machines at supermarkets. Both the stores and the shoppers have discovered that one reason the lines are so short by the machines is that people don’t want to use them. It’s a major nuisance to communicate about what produce items are being purchased. To give a special twist to his point, Mr. Manjoo wrote that the machines, “can't tell shiitakes from Shinola.”
     SSTs might make retail transactions more pleasant for shoppers. Many people prefer to deal with the credit card slot on the gas pump than having to wait in line to hand the card to a human being who takes time processing the transaction. From the retailer’s bottom line perspective, SSTs can also trim staffing costs. This fulfillment format can extend the hours in which products and services are provided, benefiting both the retailer and the consumer. Another joint benefit is the reduced dependency of the shopper on retail personnel being available.
     But human beings are quicker and more accurate than SSTs at many tasks. In addition, consumers are often willing to pay to have others take over more work. With grocery retailing, the use of self-checkout machines may stall, but the use of drive-through grocery store pickup appears to be burgeoning.
     Researchers at Ohio State University and Australia’s Deakin University list ways in which sales completed with SSTs differ from those completed through conversations with a salesperson. The consumer must:
  • Be an equal partner with the retailer in completing the transaction 
  • Know how to use the SST system provided by the retailer 
  • Resolve problems with the transaction even when immediate face-to-face interaction with the retailer is not available 
     The last of these creates opportunities and dangers. What determines whether it’s an opportunity or danger, say the researchers, is the nature of any service guarantee assuring resolution promptly after a transaction goes awry. Proper service guarantees reduce consumer dissatisfaction, negative word-of-mouth, and store switching.
     With self-checkout machines:
  • Have an employee carefully watching who can swoop in to rescue frustrated consumers 
  • Be sure that employee can quickly resolve the problem by, for example, instantly recalling the product codes for not only shiitakes and portobellos, but also Shinola shoe polish and Shinola watches. 
  • Select and train that employee to coach customers on how to make best use of the SST 
Click below for more: 
Serve Yourself to SST Guarantees 
Utilize Multichannel with Hedonic Selling 
Learn From & Coach Other Businesses

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