Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Customer versus Employee Perceptions: A Review of Self-Service Technology Options as Illustrated in Self-Checkouts in U.S. Retail Industry

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Customer versus Employee Perceptions: A Review of Self-Service Technology Options as Illustrated in Self-Checkouts in U.S. Retail Industry

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Self-service technology (SST) options are an unavoidable aspect of everyday life. Everything from ATM machines at banks, automated gas pumps, self-checkout lines at grocery stores, to checking bags at an airport with help from a kiosk can fall into this category (Anitsal, 2005; Anitsal and Anitsal, 2006; Anitsal and Anitsal, 2007). The actual definition of self-service technology, or SST, calls these options "technological interfaces that enable customers to produce a service independent of direct service employee involvement" (Meuter et al., 2000, p. 50). With the rise of technology over the past couple decades, the popularity of such an idea is only going to grow.

NCR placed the "first self-checkout at Ball's Food Stores in Kansas City in 1998" (Anand, 2011, p. 1). Their intention was for the machines to have "shoppers scan and bag their own goods, pay with cash or plastic, and get out of the store without so much as an insincere 'Have a nice day'," while also allowing companies to spend less money on cashiers in the long run (Lake, 2002, p. 1). The cost was about $17,000-$20,000 per self-checkout, or $125,000 for a pod of them, and could be completely paid off in nine months, compared to the much higher annual rate required to pay actual cashiers (Anand, 2011; Lake, 2002).

To further provide benefits to retailers and customers, new venders and improved technology have contributed to a new definition of self-service that appeals most to "the connected customer"--meaning someone of a younger generation who is more connected to the booming technology--and has the ability to cater both to "catching and retaining customers" (Bowers, 2013, p. 1). This latest description focuses mainly on customer convenience and three company-centered themes: big data, cloud computing, and smarter machines. Big data pertains to the fact that companies now have the capability to access a higher level of information and observances that would be too much for one person to process or retain. Their reliance is on computers and data, which is now easier to retrieve thanks to cloud computing, or a "catch-all term for the ability to rent as much computer power as you need without having to buy it, without having to know a lot about it" (Associated Press, 2013, p. 1). Smaller businesses often utilize this because the cloud is cheaper and easier to use, especially when customers are demanding less human interaction, thinking check-in kiosks at airports and ATM machines are faster than the alternative. A large number of consumers who usually use the SST options also find themselves dissatisfied with the lack of privacy that comes hand-in-hand with these types of technological advances (Associated Press, 2013).

Even with these advances, consumers are discovering that they cannot have everything they want, specifically concerning how face-to-face interactions and job opportunities are steadily disappearing. Society was fearful in the past of the idea that machines and automation was "a direct threat to employment," replacing all the existing employees with machines (Andrews, 2014, p. 3). What they do not realize in more current times is that several of the initial steps to an entirely automated world are in the process of being created. Machines have already begun driving cars with Google, fighting wars with drones, keeping track of schedules with Siri, and even libraries can function with robots, not librarians, that retrieve books requested by students. Robot Taxi Inc., for example, has been working on developing a driverless taxi cab service that will, for now, be able to travel three kilometers and navigate through the major parts of the city of Kanagwa, Japan, and will hopefully be commercialized by 2020 (Hongo, 2015). These are all samples of smart machines that will continue getting smarter and growing in popularity. While self-service technology is predominately thought about in the retail sense, machines like the common self-checkouts are actually everywhere in banks, hospitals, airports, movie theaters, and travel agencies. …

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