Staff shortages have been making headlines as retailers, hospitality providers, and fast-food restaurants scramble to fill positions for the busy 2021 holiday season. Businesses have been struggling to hire since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when stimulus checks were sent to more than 150 million Americans. But, months after the end of the enhanced unemployment benefits program—a decision that many thought would help bolster the workforce—businesses are still struggling to find workers. In fact, the labor force is still shrinking, with five million fewer people working than before the beginning of the pandemic, and three million fewer looking for work.
Whether it’s due to virus concerns, childcare costs, or a financial cushion from COVID stimulus and unemployment benefits, most potential job seekers just aren’t rushing to get back to work.
Now that it has become clear that the labor shortage issue isn’t going away anytime soon, businesses have to seek alternative ways to serve their customers and shore up the customer experience in the absence of droves of new employees. How can they do that? One answer: automation.
Self-service and automation provide the key to offsetting labor shortages
Self-service experiences have been gaining popularity in recent years thanks to success with self-checkout in retail, self-check-in in healthcare, and self-service ordering in fast food and hospitality.
Self-service has a proven record of being cost-effective. Further, many consumers prefer to use self-service technology over interacting with an employee.
For customer-facing experiences, businesses can quickly deploy intuitive and easy-to-use solutions for payments, drop-offs & returns, sign-in, and more.
Behind the scenes, warehouses struggling to hire order fulfillment employees can streamline order picking with semi-autonomous robots.
Automation can streamline existing operations and help beleaguered employees
With the holidays right around the corner, many U.S. consumers have already felt the effects of the labor shortage in the form of long wait times at restaurants, unavailable customer service at stores, and packages that are taking longer and longer to arrive.
While not every problem can be automated away, integrating self-service at bottlenecks in the customer journey can help free up employees to provide better customer service elsewhere.
Self-checkout is a great example of a technology that can provide convenience for customers, reduce lines at cashier-based checkout lanes, and free up staff to help with other tasks.
Getting started with self-service automation
Self-service automation is here to stay—and with the labor shortage showing no signs of disappearing, it’s likely businesses’ best path forward to ensuring a good customer experience and meeting sales goals. To learn more about how self-service kiosks should be used to provide the best customer experience, check out our Kiosk Best Practices Guide:
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