Queuing for service checkouts is a common experience among all shoppers. To address this obstacle, organisations employ self-service checkout machines. Such machines are important during peak times. They provide customers with an opportunity to make choices about how they would like to complete shopping processes. They can choose to serve themselves via the self-checkout systems or seek checkout services from the store employees. Self-service checkouts involve four processes, namely inspecting, stuffing, paying, and closing. Irrespective of the type of checkout services, customer satisfaction is an important aspect that determines clients’ decisions of making repeated purchase from a given outlet. Can self-service checkouts provide customer satisfaction? This paper seeks to answer this question.
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Self-service technologies attract immense attention in researches that address the subject of service marketing and management. When implemented in an effective manner, such technologies increase the efficiency of service delivery without involving an organisation’s employees (Curran & Meuter 2005).
Examples of self-service technology include automated teller machines (ATM), vending machines, and e-Commerce websites such as amazon.com and air travel ticket-booking sites among others. Meuter et al. (2000, p.50) use the term self-service technology to imply ‘technological interfaces that enable customers to produce a service independent of direct service employee involvement.’ Amid the few concerns about this definition, Curran and Meuter (2005), Makarem, Mudambi, and Podoshen (2009), and Dean (2008) assert that the definition is an acceptable standard for self-service technologies.
Lin and Hsieh (2005) investigate the effects of people’s perceptions of technology readiness and/or how it influences client fulfilment. They find a direct relationship between perceptions on technology use in self-service checkouts and the perceptions of service quality. Nilsson (2007) studies the influence of customer technology readiness on the perception of the effectiveness of self-service checkout user interfaces. They find that positive perceptions of technology influence customer cognition of the design of the system interfaces. These findings support Zeithaml, Parasurman, and Malhotra’s (2002) assertion that preparedness to embrace technology comprises an important factor that influences customer perception of the quality of services that are offered through self-service checkouts.
Perceptions of the usefulness of a checkout system depend on people’s readiness to accept a given technology when it is introduced by an organisation. Parasuraman (2000) defines expertise promptness as individuals’ inclination to uphold and utilise fresh expertise to attain any set agenda regarding their residence, life, or job. This definition borrows from the work of Mick and Fournier (1998) who reveal how people reluctantly embrace technology when it changes the status quo. In the plight of new technology, people cope with issues such as obsolescence or novelty, competence and wastefulness, and capability and ineptitude among other factors that relate to technology use.
As earlier mentioned, self-service checkouts provide clients with an opportunity to decide on how they wish to execute their shopping processes. The readiness of customers to embrace self-service checkouts influences their perception of service quality and hence satisfaction. However, criticisms on the capacity of self-service checkout to influence customer satisfaction have been witnessed. For example, Chiu, Fang, and Tseng (2010) and Liljander et al. (2006) assert that technology readiness suffers drawbacks in terms of influencing self-service checkout adoption behaviours. Liljander et al. (2006) reveal how ‘competence of service, management, supposed payback, partiality for individual closeness, and expediency stand out as key indicators of contentment.
Chiu, Fang, and Tseng (2010) emphasise the necessity for developing trust on self-service checkout to increase buyer fulfilment. Customers use self-service checkouts for different reasons. Meuter et al. (2000) identify ease of use, the need to save time, convenient locations, and avoidance of direct contact with service persons as some of the important reasons for using self-service checkout machines. Bitner, Brown, and Meuter (2000) confirm how the checkout may improve the quality of services that are delivered to a customer depending on his or her perceptions of quality, service flexibility, and individual needs.
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However, customers can turn away from using self-service checkouts akin to their meagre design, technical failures, and processes breakdown (Meuter et al. 2000). Dabholkar, Bobbitt, and Lee (2003) say that even people who possess a positive reception for self-service checkouts may fail to use them when the technology fails to fully replace personal interactions between customers and the organisations’ employees. Checkouts also demand an immense participation of customers in the service delivery process. This situation makes them (checkouts) more risky compared to personal direct services (Lee & Allaway 2002). These expositions raise the question of whether self-service checkouts can provide customer satisfaction as discussed in the succeeding section.
The technological innovation of self-service checkouts influences the customer satisfaction. For instance, self-service checkouts literature establishes criteria such as the level of trust to self-service checkout machines, ease of use, and the perceived usefulness as important indicators of customer satisfaction. Self-service checkout machines substitute the place of employees in offering checkout services in shopping stores by enhancing quick and efficient delivery of checkouts services. Indeed, this observation constitutes the major reason why customers want to use self-service checkout machines instead of queuing for direct personal services. Customer satisfaction is a critical element of retaining an organisation’s existing clients and/or capturing new ones (Yelkur 2007).
Customers who possess good organisational reputation share it with other people. This aspect creates the urge amongst potential customers to experience the service or product that an organisation offers. The term customer satisfaction finds a wide application in marketing discourses. It refers to the degree to which an organisation’s services and merchandise exceed or meet customer expectations. Yelkur (2007, p.106) defines it as ‘the number of customers, or percentage of total customers, whose reported experience with a firm, its products, or its services (ratings), exceeds the specified satisfaction goals.’
In self-service checkouts, such goals may induce the speed of transacting and/or simplicity of use of the machines, including the friendliness of user interfaces. Customers are most likely to be satisfied when technology use for self-service checkouts increases the efficiency of the service delivery process in terms of speed and accurateness. This claim suggests that where self-service checkout system leads to increased queuing time compared to the traditional approaches that involved direct personal contact with employees who delivered the checkout services, people are more likely to be dissatisfied.
Customer satisfaction comprises an important indicator of the performance of organisations. Indeed, it plays a crucial role in a balanced scorecard. For instance, in competitive business environments, customer satisfaction helps in service differentiation (Yelkur 2007). In this extent, organisations want their employees to ensure optimal satisfaction of customers in the process of delivering services. Can self-service checkouts produce similar effects on customer satisfaction as witnessed in the case of direct interpersonal relationships between customers and service employees within an organisation? While responding to this question, researchers such as Wirtz and Chung (2008) consider customers satisfaction an abstract term, unless it is studied with respect to certain parameters.
Davis, Bagozzi, and Warshaw (1989) first introduced the concept of usefulness and ease of use as important variables for determining customer satisfaction during self-service checkouts. The researchers justified the concept upon a critical analysis of the literature on customer satisfaction on the use of automated machines. They defined perceived ease of using a checkout system as ‘the degree to which a person believes that a particular system would be free of effort’ (Davis, Bagozzi, & Warshaw 1989, p.320).
This definition suggests customers will most likely use self-service checkouts systems, which require minimal physical and mental effort to achieve the desired outcome. The outcome can be withdrawal of cash or completion of the payment process in case of a supermarket. Similarly, perceived usefulness refers to the degree to which customers consider that self-service checkouts will help in speedy expeditions of the checkout process without failure or consuming excessive processing time.
Satisfaction depends on the capacity of the delivered service to meet customer expectations. Parasuraman (2000) asserts that readiness to embrace a given technology depends on the level of its innovativeness and customers’ hope that it will fulfil their expectations. Parasuraman (2000) also identifies insecurity and discomfort as important inhibitors of customer satisfaction with the rendered services via self-service checkout systems. This claim raises the question of whether self-service checkout machines are secure, even with the increasing threats of cyber security. High risks of customer exposure to cyber insecurity problems may lead to higher customer dissatisfaction with self-service checkouts.
An important theoretical construct that is considered in research on the capacity of self-service checkout to induce customer satisfaction is people’s preference for direct personal contacts. For example, Curan and Meuter (2005) and Lee et al. (2010) assert that the freedom to choose between personal contacts and self-service checkouts influences customer satisfaction with self-service checkout systems. Simon and Usunier (2007) extensively investigate this construct. The researchers find that experiential or rational cognitive style predicts customers’ preferences for personal contacts. This claim suggests that customers’ attitude is important in determining their choices and hence expectations of their level of satisfaction with self-checkouts.
The Role of Trust in Influencing Customer Satisfaction
Bitner, Brown, and Meuter (2000) lay the foundation for research on the role of trust in influencing satisfaction with self-service checkouts. The scholars assert that irrespective of technologies that are deployed in self-service checkouts, customers may not embrace them due to factors such as higher preferences for interpersonal relationships in service delivery process, discretion, and solitude. Researchers such as Yousafzai, Pallister, and Foxhall (2009) and McKnight, Choudhury, and Kacmar (2002) support the need to increase customers’ trust in electronic transactions. Trust levels depend on the type of self-service checkouts that an organisation uses.
Connolly and Bannister (2008) test the factors that influence trust in an online shopping environment in Ireland. They find that internet-shopping atmosphere, online salespersons’ level of dependability, and experience with the merchant influence the level of satisfaction with online self-service checkouts. Similar to the findings in market research studies, this observation suggests that customer satisfaction in an online shopping environment can be measured from the context of repeated quest to use a service. In this extent, trust on the self-service checkout depends on one’s experience of its use.
Trust is also an important predictor of satisfaction in other self-service checkouts such as e-Commerce transactions. Indeed, research on trust and satisfaction in self-service checkouts has been shifting towards e-Commerce. Important studies in this area include the work of Wu and Tsang (2008) and Rayport (2009). Using McKnight, Choudhury, and Kacmar’s (2002) work that addresses the issue of building trust, Wu and Tsang (2008) measure the level of trust with self-service checkouts among virtual communities. Research outcomes indicate that trust in terms of the security and confidentiality of websites is an important factor that influences customer approval of self-service checkouts.
Satisfaction is an important aspect that determines people’s decision to continuously use a service. The study has given a detailed literature review on self-service technologies to show how they enhance service delivery without the involvement of a company’s workforce. The paper has addressed self-service checkouts as an innovation that is helping many organisations to handle many clients effectively by giving them an opportunity to decide on what they need to buy. However, it has pointed several challenges that come with self-service checkouts in terms of how the client has to be actively involved in the service delivery process.
This issue has driven the need to address client satisfaction in the paper. For self-service checkouts, the paper has confirmed how customer satisfaction with the service depends on aspects such as the trustworthiness of the service, preference for interpersonal contacts, readiness to embrace technology, and the perception of the quality of the service givers. The effectiveness of the services in terms of the ease of operation, perception of their usefulness, and the speed of executing transaction processes is also an important determinant of satisfaction with self-service checkouts. This observation implies that self-service checkouts can provide customer satisfaction if they incorporate all these factors in the design of their operating systems and user interfaces.
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