Apr 28, 2010
By Lisa Laczynski

An Hour Here…an Hour There…Pretty Soon You’re Talking About Real Money

I spent a few days at the PRSM (Professional Retail Service Management) show in Denver in the spring, and I confess I failed to connect some dots until I stumbled on this 15-second video on Linkedin.

On my way to the show, I stopped in an airport snack shop in Newark, picked up a bag of nuts for the plane, and was at first taken back by the lack of a cashier.  I soon found the self-check-out scanner and was on my way…in seconds.

When I landed in Denver, I stopped in a similar snack shop, but this one was staffed conventionally by a single, visibly annoyed, cashier.  The line wrapped out the storefront into the airport hallway.  I was eventually able to purchase an energy bar, but the 5 or 10 minute wait seemed like hours, especially when compared to my efficient experience in Newark.

Now, the PRSM show floor was filled with painters, electricians, mechanical contractors, floor waxers, signage installers and maintainers, cleaning companies, and paving contractors, but I didn’t see any discussion of self-service kiosks and other revenue-generating retail devices.  Over time, poorly-maintained parking lots, broken signage, and burned-out light bulbs will cost retailers customers and revenue, but a malfunctioning or unavailable self-serve check-out kiosk will result in lost revenue immediately, and the losses will accumulate by the minute, literally.

And if my conversely delightful and ponderous anecdotal experiences in the Newark and Denver airports are any indication, we’ll be seeing a lot more retail automation, and a lot more devices that businesses will depend on to collect revenue from customers, devices that need to be maintained, that break, and that will be increasingly central to retailers’ success.

One of our customers, FiServ, just presented at ServiceNow’s Knowledge conference in Las Vegas, and detailed some of the improvements they’ve measured after deploying our modern facilities management solution.  Specifically, they’ve measured a 45% reduction in work order mean time to completion (MTTC).  As a software company with 100 locations, that improvement has saved them tens of thousands of service technician hours, and therefore reduced their operational costs.  It hasn’t, however, had any impact on their sales or revenue.

In the case of a retailer, however, the old adage “time equals money” has two dimensions:  1) like FiServ, the retailer saves money if their vendor is spending less time to complete a work order, but more importantly, 2) reducing the time a revenue-generating device is inoperable by 45% translates into less lost revenue, fewer customers that leave the store frustrated, and therefore more successful sales transactions.

The bottom line is that, frankly, the stakes are higher for retailers.  When a conference room is too hot or too cold, it might inconvenience employees, but it doesn’t impact customers.  When revenue-generating, customer-centric assets like self-serve kiosks go down, that’s a horse of a very different color.

Everett Dirkson, a US Senator from Illinois famously said during a budget debate, “A billion here, a billion there, and soon you’re talking about real money.”

When a busy self-service retail kiosk is unavailable for a few hours, it doesn’t take long before retailers are losing real money.

Note:  It turns out Senator Dirkson is famous for saying that, but never actually did…but let’s not let facts get in the way of making a good point.

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