Insights

Self-Service Technology Doesn’t Replace Workers, It Makes Their Jobs Easier

By Aila Staff

April 1, 2022

A common misconception about self-service technology is that it will replace the important work done by employees, especially in the retail and service industries.  Nothing can be further from the truth. Take the self-service checkout options at your local grocery store, for example. These stations provide shoppers the opportunity to skip long lines and are usually staffed by an employee. Rather than replacing jobs, self-checkout frees up employees to assist shoppers in other ways—like bagging, answering questions, or helping out with spikes in traffic at the checkout lines—providing a higher level of service. 

While some retail jobs like cashiers are expected to decline over the next decade, there are roughly 550,000 open cashier positions each year that are becoming more difficult to fill due to a shrinking labor force (see the record number of retirements among the Baby Boomers) and retail labor shortages due to the pandemic and Omicron variant.

How self-service can benefit stores, associates, and customers alike

For current retail, restaurant, and warehouse employees, self-service technology can also carry many benefits. Long lines at grocery stores previously needed to be attended to by cashiers whose time and energy were stretched thin. With self-checkout kiosks, those lines can be offset to give cashiers some relief. 

job openings per month self service technology aila replace jobs Source: The New York Times

In other parts of the store, such as deli counters or returns centers, self-service can achieve the same goal by taking orders or processing returns, reducing lines and freeing up limited staff, creating a more welcoming work environment and hopefully increasing retention in a job market with a record number of unfilled positions.

Technology helps employees in back-of-house roles 

With the closing of stores earlier on in the Covid-19 pandemic came a rush of online shopping that has continued past the reopening of stores.

 

ecommerce sales total retail sales aila self service techSource: Digital Commerce 360

All of those online orders caused a spike in warehouses around the world where workers have to pick items by hand. However, with new technology from the self-service industry, those jobs are made easier by semi-autonomous robots that work alongside warehouse workers. 

What do employees think?

Working in a customer-facing environment can be a cause of gratification but also a source of frustration for associates in the service industry. Long lines can mean unhappy customers that take out their own frustrations on the associates. Since two-thirds of customers prefer self-service technology—and since everyone hates long lines—self-service technology provides a solution to both. Happy customers equate to a more enjoyable work environment. According to one study, workplace environment was one of the top 5 reasons workers considered leaving their jobs. 

top reasons for quitting aila self service technologySource: Careerplug

What jobs do self-service kiosks help workers perform?

We’ve talked about some of the reasons companies may want to consider self-service technology to complement the efforts of their employees. But how exactly can they do it? Depending on the industry, there are a number of ways self-service technology can help make employees’ jobs easier and offset labor shortages at the same time.  

Retail:

Grocery:

Healthcare:

Pharmacy:

Warehouse/Logistics:

Travel/Hospitality: 

To learn more about how self-service can help your business and how to get started, read our free Self-Service Playbook:

Get the Self-Service Playbook

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