During my recent conversation with my friends the topic of touch screen kiosks came up. I asked them whether they preferred ordering food in person or through kiosks in McDonalds, and not surprisingly they all preferred kiosks. I couldn’t agree with them more that it is more convenient to touch a few things on the screen rather than talking and explaining everything to an employee. This is because
- As I am living in a foreign country and not speaking the language fluently, it reduces the anxiety of the possibility of embarrassing myself.
- There are less human errors, especially when I want to customize my order.
- I feel more comfortable taking time choosing my order in front of a screen than in front of an employee awkwardly looking at me waiting for my order.
Touch screen kiosks are revolutionary for people who are like me and don’t feel comfortable talking with strangers. However, my thoughts changed when I heard the struggles my grandparents are having due to this rapid change.
In Korea, where my extended family lives, touch screen kiosks are on a whole different level. Not only are kiosks used in fast food restaurants and some supermarkets, they are everywhere. And unlike in other countries where there normally is a hybrid of in-person services and kiosks, the kiosks are actually replacing people in more and more places. There are even some so- called “no-person” convenience stores, cafes, PC cafes, banks, and even hotels, where there is not a single employee. Instead, everything is digitised using kiosks and AI technologies. The four most prominent convenience stores in Korea: CU, GS25, Seven-Eleven, and Emart 24 adopted a “hybrid convenience store” where they have in-person services during the day but turn into a “no-person” convenience store during the night. Due to the increased COVID regulations, people are favoring non-human interaction. These hybrid branches increased 420% since last year.
As much as there are advantages of kiosks, it also has the detrimental problem that makes me opposed to kiosks replacing human workers. Kiosks are so exclusive that it is impossible for some people to use the service. Not only people who are not familiar with machines, like my grandparents, but people with disabilities are not taken into consideration. Moreover, the number of burglaries, which is one of the reasons for AI and kiosk technology, has not decreased after the adoption of “no-person” services, as people are finding ways to fool the system. Therefore, the complete replacement of in-person services is not a reasonable change except for the fact that it is a little more convenient for a small percentage of people.
Although this change has not yet happened in Europe, I believe that machines completely taking over service jobs is never the best idea. Although it is not much of a difference for people like me or my friends who quickly adapt to new technology, many people are not yet used to the rapid change of technology. This change can affect their day-to-day life and the most simple tasks like ordering food at the restaurant or doing their weekly groceries.
So far, the most frequent interaction I have with the touch screen robots is the self scan checkouts and being completely honest, I am very happy for their existence. It makes my grocery shopping ritual (which I like to get it done quick) go extremely fast. Especially as I am a foreigner living in the Netherlands and not speaking the native language. I also have used such screens in Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s, and my experience was as positive. As you mentioned, you can easily customize your order and you don’t have the guilt of making someone wait while you’re trying to decide what you want to eat. It is insanely efficient, and I have nothing to complain about! Except for one thing: what is going to happen to human interaction? It is still a very nice ritual to get out of your house, stop by a cafe on your way to the university to grab a cup of coffee while having a small chat with the barista. It is very much a need. So, even though I find screens very efficient and quick, the humanly need for communication and seeing faces is something I will not easily give up.
Interesting blog! When I first started using these screens to order stuff at McDonalds, it was such a relieve for me. Even though I work as a cashier myself at Intratuin, I always get a bit anxious ordering food at other places, even as a native speaker. I personally am in favor of these machines and would like to see them at more stores.
Though, I do also agree with you that it wouldn’t be a good idea to completely replace human workers at service industry. Machines can still make mistakes and especially at places like banks it is vital that there are still people you can talk to. Hopefully there will be a good balance between human workers and machines in the service industry in the future!
I too prefer the kiosks over human interaction. Especially as I generally do not like sauces on my burgers at McDonald’s (don’t judge me), and the self-checkout at grocery stores has been a godsend for me as everything goes so fast. However, I do understand what you’re saying about people not adapting to new technology fast enough for the speed it is moving at. I also think that human interaction remains necessary for some people. Some elders only get the talk at the register with the cashier, and that will be their social interaction for the day, especially with the pandemic sticking around. That’s why the Jumbo supermarket in the Netherlands is now trying out ‘chat registers’ where people can have a longer chat with the cashier without the worry of holding everyone else up. So I guess people are also trying to find a middle ground in here. But we should always encourage each other to see it from other people’s perspectives. I don’t think we have enough of that these days…
I definitely prefer touch screens and self-checkouts over interacting with the cashiers. So, for me as an introvert, touch screens are the best thing ever. However, I also don’t think that they should replace cashiers (not fully), and I’m not certain that they will. Mainly because there has to be someone to supervise the process and make sure that everything goes smoothly, without any errors. But also, I get that some people need to interact with others. It’s one of people’s needs – social interactions… And that’s why I think that even tho, the touch screens will become more popular, I don’t think they will replace cashiers, etc. in 100%.