My teenage son and I were out running errands when I discovered the need to make a cash withdrawal. I announced a slight detour from our route, claiming that I needed to find a TYME machine. My son looked at me like I was from outer space - thinking I was going to re-enact parts of the classic (his word was actually "ancient") movie "Back to the Future" instead of finding an automatic teller machine to access my bank account. As I reflect on how times (and naming conventions) change, it occurs me that the days of the old-school ATM are long gone. We got there because someone figured out that we needed to be close to our cash more often than we needed to be close to our bankers. And modern banking kiosks not only dispense cash, they handle deposits, vend stamps, make other offers and act as overall sources of information.

Allowing consumers to help themselves to the information and services they need not only facilitates their transaction but also has the potential to provide a quick, automated touchpoint to cultivate customer goodwill. 

With proper analytics, self-service machines can become effective tools for cross- or up sell opportunities, providing quality customer service (even if it is automated) that promotes customer loyalty. This is especially important in today's economic environment, when organizations need to make the most of each and every interaction with their customers. 

However, automated doesn't always mean quick and easy. Recognizing that kiosks are more than just money dispensers is more than a business or technology project; it also requires customer-centric thinking to make the most of the initiative. 

Examples abound of how organizations make the most of every customer touchpoint, and the best of these work to the consumer's benefit as much as the organization's. Columnist Lisa Loftis recently shared an example of a bank that was able to offer immediate cash advances for emergency situations through ATMs. The amounts and type of offer must be based on the customer's history, but it's surely welcome to the customer who finds herself away from branch locations or out after banking hours. 

A successful shopping experience used to depend on how helpful and knowledgeable the salespeople were at a store. Now, self-service kiosks connect the shopper to the retailer's Web site. Shoppers can get detailed information about each product, view and compare similar products, order sizes or colors not in stock (or find locations that have the product) and have the product shipped for home delivery with a few mouse clicks.  

The analytics and data management required to fully exploit a customer touchpoint require two-way communication and work best when integrated across networks. The information gathered about me as a consumer will round out my customer data for a more complete view. My own touchpoint data would reveal that although I enjoy my travel and leisure time (frequent use of train/airline ticket kiosks), I like to be efficient and tend to be utilitarian. I don't wander the isles of a video store (most of my movies are dispensed from Redbox) or department stores searching for the right item (especially if there's a gift registry). This analysis could be supplemented by my Web history and online purchasing behavior. 

Analyzing the data collected from kiosks to customize offers and point-of-contact decisions is one matter, but what about the analytics involved in presenting the right information at the touchpoint? The most obvious technical consideration is to leverage information for the real-time decisioning self-service systems call for. 

A customer uses a kiosk because of an immediate need and will quickly move on if the need cannot be met. There is no room for data latency here. The systems supporting the kiosk must have an updated, complete view of a customer to provide the proper information, offers and services. This includes not only customer information, such as history and lifetime value, but also up-to-date organizational information. Is the organization in a position to even offer the responses that will meet the customer's need, and is it in the best interest of the business to do so? What organizational responses can be offered that will not undermine current business initiatives or negatively impact the business? What offers will increase risk of loss or fraudulent behavior?

What's needed is analytic infrastructure that supports these decisions and can deliver the necessary information to the proper point of interaction - all within the confines of appropriate business processes consistent with business strategy. 

Advances in self-service technology and the ubiquity of the Internet have changed customer expectations dramatically over the last few years. Customers expect personalized, accessible products and services - and don't want to wait to get them. Greg Todd calls these next-generation customers, and he summarized the necessity of organizations to address their specific needs in an Information Management column: "Companies that truly understand the next-generation customer are marrying information management to a commitment to achieve consistent, comprehensive and varied levels of direct interactions with their end customers. They understand that decision-making has to be sharper and better-informed - which calls for superior analytics and deeper insights into customer behaviors." 

To make the most of real-time customer touchpoints afforded by ATMs and kiosks, an organization must properly balance business and technical considerations with customer needs and expectations. This requires a consistent organization-wide, customer-centric philosophy, which can result in significant business benefit and competitive advantage. 

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