Pros & Cons of Kiosk Machines

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Close-up of a hand typing on a kiosk menu screen
Close-up of a hand typing on a kiosk menu screen (Image: maria_esau/iStock/Getty Images)

Kiosks in shopping malls, amusement parks and even in grocery stores serve as computer terminals with Internet access, photo booths, coin counters and movie-rental vending machines. On the positive side of the ledger, these self-serve machines provide convenience for customers and offer profitability to vendors. Along with their advantages, however, these standalone sources of products and services also come with drawbacks.

Initial Cost

Kiosks carry an upfront price tag. The businesses that invest in them must find economical, cost-effective locations to place them. To create a kiosk design from scratch, a company must hire consultants to design and fabricate the installation and program the software that runs it. The design must anticipate the use and abuse of its designated function and location, indoors or out.

Maintenance

Kiosk maintenance can eat into operator profits. Customer abuse and acts of vandalism can lead to costly repairs. Unless these standalone units monitor themselves with built-in security cameras, assessing and attributing the responsibility for damage may be difficult to impossible.

Customer Support

Customers whose kiosk transactions fail can't ask a salesperson or technician for on-the-spot assistance with a self-serve piece of equipment. Posting a customer service number on the machine provides a means of registering a complaint or asking for a refund, but unless the kiosk can document its own malfunctions, customers can try to claim bogus refunds. If a kiosk falls out of service, its profit stream halts until it receives attention.

Overhead Costs

Kiosks can provide round-the-clock access to services and products without the expense of paying a human attendant. Placed in areas with 24-hour access, these machines can satisfy purchase impulses at hours that wouldn't offer profitability for a walk-in business.

Customer Control

Retailers who implemented kiosks had customer satisfaction rates increase by an average of 58 percent, according to Zebra Technologies. These satisfaction rates reflect the autonomous control customers can exercise over a buying experience at a self-serve machine. Kiosks extend the reach of a business into a broader customer base without the expense of operating staffed locations.

Advertising Flexibility

Kiosks not only sell the products and services they dispense directly, but they also function as advertising media for other relevant products and services. Signage on the machine can point to other options, including online services accessible from a QR code. A movie ticket kiosk can play previews for other films to encourage customers to rent another title, or distribute "buy one, get one free" coupons to encourage return business.

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