For years, I have been advocating self-checkouts in all kinds of places, yet everyone always told me it wasn’t going to catch on. Then back in my London-time, I saw a Tesco in the Bank area that had nearly only self-checkouts and I tried to grasp all the (dis)advantages of the change: less staff – less training – quicker checkouts?… But was it really that? Does it really take less staff and less training, or does it take less staff sitting in tills all day and just a more advanced training to fewer people? Are checkouts really quicker, or does it feel quicker as you are busy checking out?

Then came the era in Luxembourg (finally) where you could buy tickets at cinema online or at small self-checkouts, and along came IKEA and Auchan and more organisations such as Quick. Whilst the first 3 really do seem to make it a quicker experience for me, the 4th was still dependent on the speed of the person serving my order as that process could not be transferred to me.

But the most pressing thought that just popped to my mind is that even if it is not really quicker or more convenient, I’d still have a tendency to just use the machines anyways, as it removes in most cases a variable that is a potentially bigger burden than a potential improvement: customer service!

If I go to IKEA and manage to not speak to any unhappy/overloaded member of staff, yet purchase everything I had planned to, I would consider myself to be very satisfied. Knowing that I might miss out on a potentially terribly friendly and enjoyable person without the machine is less of a problem to me than the risk of having to deal with a foul-mouthed opposite.

Today, whenever I see one of those automated machines, I use it even if the till next to it is free. Call me anti-social, but I’d rather call myself anti-rude-service. Where does that leave us with the paradigm shift? Whilst years back, a valid way to increase custom was to provide good service, today, a valid way could be to automate service and remove the human factor – skynet much? Syndicates, don’t fight for your right for a job, fight for the support required to do a good job!

I guess, and this is my last conclusion for now, that I’d only consider the automated version if I had doubts my employees’ customer service was not up to my own standards. But please, everyone reading this, if you have employees providing bad service, replace them with a machine! 😉