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Kiosk technology: a success in Pakistan?

  • Posted On: 10th June 2013
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Kiosk is an interactive technology that has a touch screen allowing users to communicate directly on the screen. From supermarket check-outs to airline check-ins, from hospital check-ins to the Kodak self-service picture developer, kiosk systems are everywhere in the foreign world.
These systems have been a continuing success in the developed world as they have no space and time limitations. No offices or people are required to operate them and they can run 24 hours, irrespective of shop closing timings and workers’ availability.
It is the convenience and speed which makes customers revert to self-service check-outs at Tesco (a famous supermarket chain in the UK) and other chain stores, rather than stand in long queues for customer service. These supermarket check-outs conveniently allow you to buy products by selecting options and making payment through a cash collector or credit card dispenser.
The self-service ordering kiosks are capable of taking multiple orders simultaneously while also enabling customisation. For example, within the food industry, self-service ordering kiosks through computerised touch pads allow customers to order made-to-order sandwiches. These systems are designed to be user-friendly offering customised choices such as the option of extra mayonnaise on the sandwiches. Such customisation also reduces customer complaint on the product/service not being precisely what was ordered.
This technology also serves as an information service. Kiosks are being commonly used by the tourism and travel industry, installed in hotel lobbies for directions (to restaurants, shopping and other services). These hotel kiosks also offer customisation by customising individual kiosks to contain the specific information required by guests. This can be done through the hotel’s licensed software for creating and hosting the kiosk. Marketing is another area that makes use of these setups. A marketing company can very conveniently rely on kiosk systems for its advertisements.
Kiosk systems also provide entertainment services such as Movie Booth Kiosks providing DVD rentals. DVD rentals within the UK are popular for their cost effectiveness and convenience amongst customers. Its popularity in the UK can be gauged by the fact that Britain’s next top model Charlotte Denton demonstrated its use during the kiosk launch in Merseyside, UK.
Besides other benefits, kiosks allow for customers’ privacy and reduces communication barriers such as language and accent through automated communication.
These examples demonstrate the widespread usage of kiosk systems. Though its initial installation cost is high; once deployed, the technology shows high return on investment. It saves up on the wages, payroll process and recruitment of customer service. It aids a lot of services/businesses through its advertisement and information services. Once installed, marketing setups can practically run their entire businesses through these systems. The long-run costs are thus greatly minimised by decreasing labour costs which is a major expense within the developed world.
The deployment of this technology in Pakistan, however, requires a look at our country’s individual circumstances. In developing countries, labour costs are generally much cheaper than in the developed ones. Recession further decreases the labour costs. This scenario may deter the adoption of this technology in Pakistan. However, the introduction of kiosk systems could still prove cost-effective for investors and efficient for customers by further decreasing labour costs and evading all time and space limitations. It can also get Pakistan at par technologically with the developed countries.
A major issue in incorporating these systems in our country is the acceptability and, thus, efficient use of the technology. The mentality of Pakistani customers in confidently using a touchpad screen and choosing options themselves rather than just calling for customer service needs to be altered. The consequent recruitment of staff to assist customers in using the new technology and the willingness of Pakistanis to use new technology are some issues to be explored.
It is the acceptability of using self-service technology by Pakistani customers that may determine the technology’s success. Then, there is also the threat of theft as kiosks are not limited to any physical space.
Even though these concerns are substantial, they should not deter the kiosk systems from coming into operation as every technology undergoes its initial bumps. Similar concerns were voiced with ATMs at their initial deployment stages. ATMs were viewed very skeptically in terms of theft of money, PIN codes and a highly insecure way of taking cash out of the bank. These fears, however, died as the convenience and ease of ATMs set in.
Although our country’s current unstable political environment deters the thought of any new investment, the future of kiosk technology once deployed does depict a brighter tomorrow.

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