Self-checkouts improving customer service, expert says

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on November 3, 2004

Consumer usage of self-checkout lanes is meeting or exceeding retailer expectations, resulting in improvements to customer service at the checkout and throughout the store, according to a white paper published by IDC and sponsored by NCR.

The 'Self-Checkout Systems: Creating Value Across the Retail Store' study incorporates the results of interviews with 6,359 consumers and six major retailers throughout North America, Europe, Japan and Australia, all of which have had self-checkout technology deployed for more than six months.

Doubling in 2005
The study found that these early adopters are reporting that up to 50% of transactions go through self-checkout lanes, and that four of the six retailers plan to at least double their self-checkout installations by 2005.

Consumers surveyed across seven countries cited faster checkout, shorter queues and choice of check-out options as the top benefits of self-checkout lanes. UK consumers cited shorter queues (68%), faster checkout (68%) and having a choice on how to checkout (66%) as the top benefits. The retailers interviewed viewed improved service at the checkout as the primary benefit, followed by improved customer loyalty and better customer service throughout the whole store. "When retailers redeploy checkout resources to improve customer service beyond the front end to other areas of the store, it provides a point of differentiation," explained Meredith Whalen, group vice president for IDC U.S.

Customer preferences
When asked where they would like staff redeployed to improve service in other areas of the store, the top answer was a clean and tidy appearance (77%), followed by well-stocked shelves (76%), and accessible staff to answer questions and locate products (70%). The top answer from UK consumers was to ensure stores have a clean and tidy appearance (89%), well stocked shelves (88%) and accessible staff to answer questions and locate products (77%).

"Consumers clearly value the convenience self-checkout can provide as well as the impact it can make on service throughout the store," said Alberto Camuri, NCR's vice president for Retail Solutions in Europe, Middle East and Africa. "To maximise these benefits, IDC's research highlights the need for retailers to develop best practices for measuring, communicating, staffing and promoting their self-checkout implementation."

Keys to success?
According to retailers interviewed for the paper, one of the primary keys to success of self-checkout is staffing. This begins by ensuring the attendant is well trained, friendly, and encourages customers to use the technology. Clear and consistent signage and the correct location within the store are other important factors in encouraging shoppers to use self-checkout. "Given consumers' positive attitudes toward self-checkout, we expect retailers to deploy more self-service technologies such as kiosks," added Whalen.

Consumers also said that they were most interested in kiosks that would allow then to check prices (63%) and kiosks that allow the pre-ordering of delicatessen items (59%). UK consumers were mostly interested in kiosks that allow them to check prices (66%), kiosks that allow to get additional information about products (52%) and kiosks that allow pre-order delicatessen items, and have the order processed while doing their shopping (51%).

For additional information:
·  Visit IDC at
·  Visit NCR at