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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Checking Out Self-Reliance Technologies

Photo by yanyanyanyanyan
Ever wonder why people wait in line at the grocery store check-out or the public library when self-check-out is available? I’d like to argue that in a digital culture, we get emotional support from live human transactions. The neuroscience proves that the more social our technologies become, the more human contact we‘ll crave: hi-tech/hi-touch. So it’s not about efficiency.

Transacting at check-out is all about having a plush human exchange. This is where brand personality shines. For example, at my library there are a couple of librarians who lavish patrons with eye contact and smiles. People will cue up to have their books checked out by these librarians, while self-check-out is idle nearby.

In grocery stores, self-check-out is a bust. The process is clunky and riddled with errors that cause delays. Invariably the customer is forced to seek help anyway as the robot voice scolds them about unscanned items. It’s a downright punitive customer experience.

The trouble with some self-reliance technologies is that they are replacing something that people value more and more - positive human connections. More importantly, technologies that attempt to fix the problem of lousy customer service using the fig leaf of hip technology is an infuriating idea. When I saw this video about a mobile app for shoppers, I couldn’t help but wonder: what problem is this solving? Efficiency? Self-reliance? User freedom?

Or is it a techno-fix for bad customer service at check-out? The latter doesn’t need an app. It needs leadership.

See for yourself. Would you adopt this mobile app for your shopping trip?

1 comment:

Amy Dean said...

So true! I just read an article in the New York Times about a new technology that will replace waiters and waitresses in restaurants. Imagine ordering your meal from an iPad at the table. What fun is that? Next my salad will come in pill form.

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