Have you noticed the increasing number of automated kiosks popping up at more and more locations performing duties that were once done by entry level workers or students?  Well, prepare yourself, for I predict this is only going to get more and more widespread.

Companies are busy as beavers trying to implement these machines into their business plans.  I was in McDonalds just yesterday and instead of a person taking my order, I was directed to a kiosk where I placed my order and paid for it with my card without ever talking to a person.  A person then called my number that was on the receipt and I retrieved my food from the counter, again with no human interaction as the person had placed my tray on the counter and had returned to the kitchen before I arrived.

Many of the airlines use kiosks as a means to check you in for your flight, offer you a seat upgrade for a price, print your boarding pass, and if you have no baggage to check, then you leave the kiosk and proceed directly to security.  Many times this is done with no human interaction, although I will say that help at the airline kiosks is readily available for some of us who are technically challenged.

I can certainly see kiosks rapidly expanding especially in the fast food industry.  Businesses where there is little need for specialization and options are limited is where kiosks are best suited.  For instance, at oil change locations, you could type in the make and year model of your car, engine size and what type of oil you prefer.  The machine will estimate your wait time because it will know how many are ahead of you and ask if you want to proceed.  If you want to proceed you will pay and it will print you a receipt with a barcode at the bottom.  When your oil change is complete the technician will scan the barcode at the bottom letting the machine know your job is complete.

There are many reasons businesses who can make these work will implement them if possible but two of the primary reasons are (1) reducing headcount therefore reducing costs and (2) in today’s economy there are just not enough entry level people out there to fill the demand for these jobs.  Think about it, if you can make these work, a kiosk will always be on the job, never surfing the net on their phone, or texting another kiosk, and they will never be late for work.  They will just sit there and quietly take your order and your money, and oh yeah and gather your data so the business can perhaps send you a reminder for whatever service you are receiving if you give them your e-mail address.

In today’s economy there are fewer entry level workers out there, or could it be that there are fewer people willing to work for the entry level wage, maybe a little of both, either way businesses are struggling to fill the demand.  This is causing them to have to pay a higher wage or perhaps use a more skilled worker to perform the entry level job, and in both cases the business has higher employee costs.   If you are a small business or a start-up business where every dollar counts, these higher costs can really be painful.

This is why I see the kiosk industry getting nothing but bigger and smarter and hopefully more economical so more businesses can afford them.  I can see a clever kiosk manufacturer someday marketing a kiosk that will be able to speak with a male or female voice whatever the preference of the customer prompting the customer to buy more services or educating them about new products or services that are available.  There are a lot of possibilities.  Like I said, they are not for every business but where they will work it could mean the difference between making it, or not.  Certainly, at a minimum it will mean lower costs, and who knows, maybe even lower prices for us?  Well one can hope can’t one?