Today I was in my usual grocery store and decided once again to use the “self service” checkout. In this case, it was called UScan, but perhaps should have been called UWait or UStress or something.
It really didn’t work very well. It did things like instruct me to put the item in the bag only to tell me to take it back out and wait for cashier assistance. I had perhaps 8 items and about half of them had some sort of problem that required the human cashier. I spent much more time in that self service station that I would have if I had just gone through the regular line!
What does that say about automation? In this case, it needed serious human oversight. Websites are like that. They are a form of self service that need some form of human oversight. Hopefully most of them work better than that self service station today.
Make sure they do! If you sell products on the web, make sure your web customers aren’t experiencing ‘technical difficulties’ that may drive them away. Nothing will make a customer click away quicker than a technical difficulty in your website.
Review your website logs periodically to see where customers are ‘falling off’ or play the customer frequently and go through your own checkout procedure. At my grocery store today I had little choice but to just put with it. But on the web, customers have plenty of choices and they don’t hesitate to use their right to choose.