Nothing ruins a customer's experience quite like a broken or malfunctioning machine. We have all seen kiosks with that dreaded sign that says, "Out of Order." Maintenance is an inevitable part of any machine's lifespan, but there are several ways to get the most out of your machine. For example, you will need to decide between using retail employees, contractors or W2 employees for maintenance. You must also decide what types of preventative maintenance you can perform to reduce the chances of a machine breaking.
Using retail employees
One benefits of using retail employees for maintenance is related to time, said James Gregorie, director of marketing for Swift-Protech.
"If employees can maintain the kiosks, it can drastically reduce downtime," he said. "Because you are not waiting on (the) contractor or on the kiosk manufacturer, you can fix the problem as soon as it arises. Employees who are on staff will not incur additional costs for their time."
On the other hand, retail employees have other duties to perform, so they probably won't have the time to devote to repairs.
"Additionally, if the kiosk is being implemented in an existing operation, employees will need to be trained, which take time," Gregorie said. "The quality of the repairs will only be as good as the training employees are given."
In a blog post, Chris Gilder, CEO and founder of Meridian, recalled a time when a sales team member asked a theater employee why a kiosk was always out of order. The employee simply responded, "That thing has never worked since it's been here."
This is an example of another issue with relying on retail employees. You can't expect them to be technical experts that can fix a completely busted machine.
There is also the matter of security. A disgruntled retail employee could sabotage a kiosk or steal from it.
So, what about contractors or W2 employees?
Usually, contractors are better trained than retail employees, so they can more easily fix a broken kiosk, Gregorie said.
"This experience usually means faster, higher-quality repairs without having to take your staff away from their responsibilities," he said.
While you wait for the contractor to arrive, however, customers might get a bit frustrated at that out of order sign.
"Contractors, unless they are locally based, will take some time to arrive," Gregorie said. "This means your kiosk could be down for a few hours or it could be days before your kiosk resumes normal operations. Additionally, having a contractor come in will be an additional cost."
Another option is to use a W2 employee from a kiosk manufacturer or a third party. With this model, you make a Service Level Agreement with the service provider.
The SLA helps ensure you get the right quality of service from the provider, according to Ken Miller, national sales support manager, Fujifilm North America Corp. The employee is trained to handle maintenance for the specific kiosk.
The W2 employee can be a kiosk manufacturer's representative or a third party chosen directly by the end user. The advantage of using a W2 employee from a service provider according to Miller, is that you have more assurance of knowledge and professionalism than with a contractor. With a contractor, you have no guarantee they are familiar with the kiosk parts or that they will behave in a professional manner.
You can negotiate the actual price for the kiosk service in the SLA, according to Miller. It may take some time, however, to negotiate and finalize the SLA. It may also be quicker to get a retail employee to service the kiosk.
One way to delay or avoid choosing someone to fix a broken kiosk, however, is to have a preventative maintenance plan in place.
"Buying the right components at the beginning of the project will make life easier for the remainder of the product’s lifespan," Gregorie said.
If you are planning to deploy an outdoor kiosk, for example, you should consider getting the right materials, such as steel for the enclosure. Wood and plastic won't last long in the elements.
Gregorie also encourages deployers to look at the environment of the kiosk and ask a few questions.:
- Is there a heater nearby that will be on?
- Are vehicles or forklifts moving around that could hit the unit?
- Will it be used by customers or employees? If so how often and to what extent?
On a practical level, Gregorie said retailers should never buy touchscreens that require a stylus, due to customers' impulse to use other objects such as keys or hairpins to operate them. Over a long enough time, these objects will damage the touchscreen.
The task of kiosk maintenance doesn't begin when it breaks, it begins when you first make plans to create it, transport it and deploy it. Kiosk maintenance should be a task that continues throughout the machine's lifespan if you want a truly reliable machine that delivers more than it breaks.
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