Self-service is a growing industry. More and more companies can see the value of integrating a self-service solution in their business. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with adopting the technology. The kiosk industry is growing and in light of the full-moon, Halloween and Frankenstorm Sandy, I thought I'd take a moment to talk about ways you can avoid a nightmare deployment.
We all choose self-service solutions with the best intentions. Whether to engage customers or employees, provide information or streamline transactions; companies benefit by reduction in overhead and the potential increased revenue.
Kiosks are typically placed in highly visible and highly trafficked areas. Many times kiosks have internet access and tools for viewing and accessing a variety of software applications. Between the kiosk components, the application platform software, kiosk design and front end user interface — there is a wide spider web of information that has been spun. Unfortunately, lower quality solutions can easily become a web filled with bugs — great for a spider, not for your solution.
The first path: Choosing the right manufacturer
We've all heard the saying, "you get what you pay for." This really is the case. Meridian receives calls daily from prospective clients that have chosen a company because the costs were lower, however upon reflection, realized that communication issues, lack of quality, kiosk breakdown and eventual downtime has translated into a lot of lost revenue. It is important to vet the company that you work with. Make sure they have a consultative approach to fully understand your end result requirements. Do they ask questions? Do they offer a warranty? Do they actually do what they say they do? Do they have references? Can they produce exactly what you need? Are they ISO certified?
The second path: Component problems
Kiosks are complex multi-function solutions. They may have cameras, CPU, monitor, keyboards, printers, telephones, credit card reader, bar code reader, change makers, cash recycling, cash dispensing and accepting, exterior signage or a combination of, the list goes on and on. Interactive kiosks are typically custom built to function in a high volume environment. When fully-assembled, a kiosk solution has many parts and features that must all work together. Some companies use consumer grade computers in the build. Unfortunately, personal components aren't built to withstand commercial usage and typically have issues quickly. Ask your kiosk vendor what parts and components are used to build the solution and what warranties are available. When a component is broken, the solution doesn’t function in its entirety, if at all. That results in lost revenue and failure to adopt…short term nightmare with long-term consequences.
The third path: Old content
An old story is just that — old. It's frightening to invest time, research and money but fail to plan for the long term deployment. Think about it, you open up a magazine and it's from a year ago, or even six months ago. Is it relevant? No. The world is changing and information is changing. You can't set it and forget it. You have to actively update your kiosk solution. Keep your content fresh, make it relevant for all users, past, present and future. Meridian's Mzero Management Server provides a portal for content management. You don't even have to get up from your desk. Just log in, update and launch. Remote management turns a ghost story into a new adventure.
The fourth path: Who's watching?
The hair on your neck is raised — someone is watching. With a self-service kiosk deployment, you have to plan on watching. Measuring ROI is virtually impossible, unless you have a remote monitoring solution. Imagine — you've spent the money and launched your pretty solution and then shut the door and didn't check to make sure it was alive and interacting. Gathering data on how the kiosk is being used helps you to understand and modify your solution for success. Like the mad scientist, Meridian's Mzero Application Platform provides access to the interworkings — or the brains — of deployed kiosks. You can see how often it's used, uptime, downtime, errors or issues, length of interaction and a variety of other analytics. If you're solution provider doesn't have access to or provide an opportunity to have access…be frightened.
The fifth path: Tampering
Deployed kiosks can take a beating. As I said in the beginning, kiosks are typically deployed in high traffic areas and positioned for the purpose of high volume usage. Typically designed and built to provide information for a variety of people and technological levels, kiosk models should be built tough. When you are designing your solution, think about where the kiosk will be located (outside, inside, freestanding or on a wall), think about what you want the end user to experience and think about the application and interactivity of the solution. Does your provider stand behind their work? Do they have a design-thinking process? Do they have a platform that is relevant?
Not all roads lead to success. Make sure you watch out for these paths and evaluate the provider you work with. It's best to avoid the Nightmare on Elm Street or on any other street for that matter.
Chris Gilder, CEO & Founder of Meridian, brings more than 20 years of entrepreneurial successes to the senior management team. His vision and drive to succeed has led Meridians double digit growth for well over a decade. Meridian has been recognized as the leader in the self-service kiosk industry and an innovator with the development of the Self Service Technology Center in partnership with Intel, HP, Microsoft, Zebra Technologies and Storm.