The human versus machine debate has been a hot topic for many years, cropping up in everything from novels and science-fiction films, to news programmes and election campaigns. In fantasy, the imagined threat becomes a fight for human survival and global dominance, but in the real world the argument is still heated; are machines replacing humans in the workforce?

In supermarkets today, you will undoubtedly come across self service computer kiosks alongside the traditional staffed checkouts. While still requiring the presence of a staff member to authorise some items, such as alcohol purchases for example, these automated kiosks allow customers to scan their own purchases, pay and receive a receipt without any outside assistance. This is especially handy when you have just a half hour for lunch and there is a queue at the one checkout that is open.

The Future of Customer Service: Human vs. Machine

One concern that some people have is that automated kiosks remove the human element of interaction but, as most shopping malls, cinemas and airports have shown, the use of automated kiosks are being utilised as an addition to human-service check outs and desks. This eases the pressure on staff to push through customer service as fast as possible and so facilitates a speedy service alongside supporting current staff members.

It would be hard to imagine a world today where ATM machines weren’t available in virtually every town and city in the country. Cinema ticket booths, subway ticket machines and tourist information kiosks offer helpful and quick solutions and don’t require staff – which means that they can be in operation 24/7. They also reduce some of the risks associated with these professions. A lone staff member manning their station in the dead of night is more vulnerable than a kiosk machine installed in their place. Plus they remove the need for people to work unsocial hours in order to fulfil a consumer demand.

Self-service kiosks have been in operation since their invention in the US in 1977 and are now featured in buildings, shops and businesses across the world. Originally these kiosks were predominantly used as information centres, performing functions that most phones and tablets do today, such as showing cinema times, directions for tourists or visitor information for businesses. The first kiosks could only show the information they were programmed with but since the invention of the internet and the accessibility of it, most kiosks these days can access the World Wide Web instantly.

The human element to customer service will always be an important feature of any business or public service but arguably, kiosks do ease the strain on staff members. If all you require is a quick bit of tourist information, or find out what floor the business you’re looking for is on, and the customer service desk has a queue a mile long, then a kiosk could be your answer. An easy-to-use device with all the relevant information at your fingers is just what you’re looking for whether you are a business user or consumer.