Are Self-Service Machines More Trouble Than They're Worth?


The assumption among many retailers, I'm sure, is that the self-service check-out option accommodates those consumers who have just a few items in their basket and would prefer not to wait in the often longer, cashier-staffed lane.

But although self-service machines are designed to make the grocery check-out experience faster and more convenient, they might just be more trouble than they're worth, according to a new study by Lisle, Ill.-based Glory Global Solutions.

The vast majority of U.S. consumers (88 percent) said they've felt frustrated by supermarkets' self-service technology during one or more trips to the store – 89 percent females vs. 88 percent men – citing a preference for human interaction and a heightened level of customer service.

“Human interaction remains a crucial element of customer service,” said Joe Gnorski, VP of marketing and sales operations at Glory Global, reiterating consumers' preference for the one-on-one attention available with a company associate.

Although men and women feel equally frustrated by self-service machines, there exists an attitudinal gap –- and somewhat unsurprisingly -- between generations.

Younger consumers (ages 18-34), who are notoriously more comfortable with technology than their older counterparts, are the least frustrated. More than half (56 percent) said they rarely or never feel frustrated by self-service machines, compared with older consumers (55-plus years of age) who find themselves often frustrated and are the least likely to opt for the self-service lane. In fact, some 33 percent of the members in this age bracket claim to have never used one at all.

Aside from the overall negative attitude toward this technology, however, the majority of U.S. consumers are still open to using self-service when it's available (73 percent). "Today’s customers demand higher service levels and deeper interaction," added Gnorski, "and as a result, self-service machines need to ensure customers are receiving a more personal and relationship-based experience."

“It’s still surprising that despite the proliferation of self-service payment machines across everyday life … around 90% still feel frustrated by the technology," Gnorski concluded. "Our research makes it clear that ... consumers need more from self-service solutions to really provide a seamless experience that meets their needs.”


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