Self Service Kiosks 101

Self Service Kiosks 101

Everything you need to know about self-service kiosks and starting your own self-service project!

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Implementing a self-service solution can streamline your business operations and reduce costs while increasing customer satisfaction and return visits.

This guide will go over the basics of self-service kiosks, help you decide whether your business or organization would be a good fit for a new kiosk project, and get you started on the right foot.

What is a self-service kiosk?

A self-service kiosk is an interactive tablet or touchscreen computer that allows a customer to access information or services without directly interacting with a person.

Implementing self-service kiosks can allow a business to scale operations more quickly and efficiently while at the same time reducing costs.

Visitors can perform self-service activities independently without waiting for employee assistance while employees can focus on other tasks that provide more value to customers or benefit from face-to-face interaction.

A Low Rise kiosk sitting on a table in a restaurant.

How do self-service kiosks work?

A Roo printer kiosk with branding to attract visitors to use the kiosk.

Interactive self-service kiosks have both hardware and software components that must work together to provide a customer experience.

On the hardware side, a kiosk consists of a touchscreen computer or, increasingly, a tablet secured in a physical enclosure designed to prevent tampering, damage, or theft.

iPads are the most popular tablets for kiosk use due to their low cost, ease of use, and consistent quality, but Android and Windows tablets like the Microsoft Surface line are also used for various reasons.

Peripherals, like thermal printers and card readers, may also be required to enable specific functionality.

Kiosk software is generally used to lock the device to a single application or program. Most frequently, kiosk interfaces are developed as web pages and displayed within a specialized kiosk browser like our Kiosk Pro software for iOS/iPadOS.

While it can be tempting to look for a complete “turn-key” solution that includes both hardware and software, this often results in compromises as you are limited to a single provider’s offerings for both the hardware and software portions of the project.

Sourcing kiosk software and hardware independently gives you greater flexibility in the selection of each piece, allowing you to identify the best possible solution for your project.

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An iPad displaying a start screen to watch a film about jellyfish.

How are self-service kiosks used?

There are hundreds of potential use cases for self-service solutions - some of the most common include:

Ordering & self-checkout

Allow customers to place and pay for an order at a kiosk station. Present consistent cross-sell and up-sell promotions, track and manage sales, and shorten lines.

Visitor check-in & queue management

Check-in kiosks can screen visitors, track who should be seen next, notify relevant staff members automatically, and help manage wait times.

Product info & endless aisle

Let customers browse and purchase items that may not currently be in stock due to space or inventory constraints. Scan physical items to return a quick price check.

Customer registration & loyalty

Collect customer information to build a mailing list or marketing campaign. Track repeat visits using a kiosk, allowing you to easily reward and incentivize your best customers.

Wayfinding & directories

Large buildings and corporate campuses can be often difficult for visitors to navigate. Tablet kiosks can be used as interactive directories, allowing visitors to look up the location of specific offices or access maps and directions.

What are the benefits of self-service kiosks?

Shorter wait times

Self-service systems put visitors in control of the process. Once installed, self-service kiosks are an ‘always on’ resource that don’t require scheduling or predetermined shift lengths, adding extra capacity at peak times and during unexpected rushes. Decreased wait times can also result in faster customer turnover.

Higher profits

For ordering and point-of-sale use cases, self-service kiosks have been shown to increase average order size by 15-30%. Kiosks allow for easy customization and upsell opportunities with options that can be clearly laid out and presented consistently every time during the ordering process.

Reduced costs

While self-service kiosks do not replace employees, they can make operations more efficient and reduce costs by streamlining frequent, repeated interactions with customers.

Greater privacy & data security

Self-service through a kiosk gives customers a sense of anonymity and the ability to increase their order or make special requests without feeling judged.

For situations where private or otherwise personal information is being shared, entering information directly into a kiosk reduces the number of employees touching that data, making it more secure.

Improved accuracy and fewer errors

Kiosks can provide clear and consistent messaging that helps the visitor understand their options step-by-step as needed.

As the customer is entering their order or data directly into the system, there is less chance for miscommunication. Since data is directly entered into the system, there are also fewer chances of illegible handwriting or mislaid paper forms or tickets.

Enhanced customer insight

Analytics embedded into your kiosk system can provide a wealth of information about your customers and how they see your business and products.

Decreased points of contact

Self-service kiosks allow visitors to complete transactions without direct contact with staff members and support social distancing.

Increased customer satisfaction

While self-service is not a new concept, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed how customers interacted with businesses, quickly accelerating the uptake of new technologies and methods of communication. Self-service kiosks extend this type of interaction to your physical locations, allowing visitors to choose how and when they interact directly with staff.

Do kiosks replace workers?

Let’s start with the misconception that when kiosks are implemented, workers should expect to lose their jobs. While self-service kiosks frequently make a business more efficient, they are not a direct replacement for employees.

Think about the types of tasks that computers are best at - in most cases, they are repeatable workflows that work with specific pieces of data.

Now think about the types of tasks people are best at - understanding and responding to questions, connecting with others, troubleshooting. In environments where self-service solutions are implemented, employees are still needed to:

  • answer questions and offer opinions or solutions
  • help customers with using the kiosk - even as people become increasingly familiar with these types of interfaces and they become easier to use, visitors will inevitably need help
  • troubleshoot technical issues
  • assist with complex tasks that are outside the scope of a kiosk
A Square kiosk used as a POS register.

A number of fast-casual restaurants that have implemented self-service kiosks at tables use them to augment the customer experience, rather than replacing the traditional restaurant experience altogether.

Wait staff continue to greet customers, answer questions, and take the main order while the kiosk is available for time-sensitive tasks, like ordering appetizers or drinks, flagging staff members that the table needs them, or requesting and paying the check at the end of the meal.

The best self-service solutions are designed to complement your customers’ interactions with staff, not to replace them.

How much does a self-service kiosk cost?

Historically, traditional self-service kiosks had to be large enough to house a computer and separate screen and often cost upwards of $10,000-$20,000.

Fast-forward to the introduction of the iPad in 2010, when smaller tablet-based kiosks upended the self-service market, drastically reducing the costs to set up a self-service solution for visitors.

Secure, durable tablet enclosures can be paired with an inexpensive tablet or iPad, allowing you to set up a kiosk station starting under a thousand dollars.

Kiosk software is available as a one-time license per device or an ongoing subscription for apps that operate on a SAAS model or include remote management.

How long does it take to install a kiosk?

While the physical installation of a tablet kiosk generally only takes an hour or so, planning and executing a self-service kiosk project often takes several months. For larger projects, a multi-year timeline may be required.

Most kiosk projects can be broken down into the following phases:

Does a self-service kiosk need peripherals?

Whether a self-service kiosk needs peripherals really depends on the functions it will be used for. Popular kiosk peripherals for self-service projects include:

Thermal printers

Printers can be used to provide receipts for transactions, tickets for events, labels or badges for identification, as well as coupons and other promotional materials.

Housing the printer inside a protected enclosure can prevent tampering or disconnection by visitors and extend the life of the printer.

Card readers

For self-service kiosk projects with a payment component, card readers are a must.

Card readers that support EMV, chip and pin, and contactless solutions are all available options depending on your environment and use case.

For other projects, magnetic stripe readers or RFID readers can be used to read loyalty and other types of access control or identification cards.

Barcode scanners

External barcode scanners can be used to map a physical product SKU to data, including price check or additional information about the product, for example, showing tasting notes when a bottle of wine is scanned.

Scanning can also be used to streamline data collection - for example, scanning a loyalty card to link a purchase with a specific account.

Camera scanning trays & access

Another benefit of using tablets for self-service kiosk projects are the excellent cameras built directly into many current tablets.

Native cameras can be used for barcode scanning, but more frequently are used for applications like document scanning or insurance verification.

Scanning trays with motion-sensor lights allow visitors to quickly position a document at the correct distance from the camera for clear, accurate scanning.

Custom peripheral design & integration

Often a project requires a specific peripheral, either because a viable alternative does not exist or the software being used for a project only works with a specific component.

If a predefined solution doesn’t exist for the peripheral device, a kiosk manufacturer with experience in peripheral integration can often design a custom solution.

What requirements are there for accessibility in self-service kiosks?

A closeup of a tablet enclosure with braille engraving.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on disability.

Employers, state and local governments, businesses that are open to the public, commercial facilities, transportation providers, and telecommunication companies all have to follow the requirements of the ADA.

Specific height and reach requirements exist for ATMs and kiosks and other functional requirements may apply to your project. Ignoring them can put your business or organization at risk for lawsuits that can result in a court order, monetary damages and/or civil penalties.

Working with a kiosk manufacturer that is experienced in designing ADA-compliant projects in is the best way to ensure that your self-service kiosks meet these requirements.

Tips for a successful self-service kiosk project

Define and track goals

Although the benefits of implementing self-service are many, ensuring the success of a kiosk project requires some advance planning.

Clearly defining the purpose and audience for your self-service project will allow you to set specific goals that can be tracked - for example, reducing customer wait times or increasing average order value by a specific percentage.

The best goals for a self-service kiosk project are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

Analytics software (like our Remote Management Server) can automatically track usage of your kiosks and help you measure the effectiveness of your project from day one.

Promote your kiosks

People who walk by and see your kiosk need to know why it’s there, or they simply won’t use it.

Custom signage can help you communicate that purpose quickly and attract visitors to your kiosk. Use a clear, concise headline or call-to-action and make sure your signage is targeting the right people by creating a tone using images, colors, fonts, and language that would appeal to that audience.

Advertising your self-service options through your marketing materials, website, and mailing list can also help attract visitors that might otherwise be hesitant to visit a location in person.

Choose the right partner

Working with a trusted vendor can provide the benefit of experience and help remove headaches from the process of setting up a new self-service kiosk deployment.

With over 30 years of experience designing interactive self-service kiosks, we know what works. We’ve developed solutions for hundreds of interpretive exhibits, transactional kiosks, sales exhibits, and training programs.

We’re ready to start a conversation about your specific needs and how working with Kiosk Group can set your project up for success.

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