To Kiosk or Not to Kiosk?

Think of the last time you used a kiosk. You may have gotten your airline boarding pass, rented a movie, applied for a job, printed photos, checked out of a hotel, paid a bill or joined a club. Kiosks are everywhere now a days. Now think about the last time you used a portable device to do some or all of the same things. Netbooks, laptops, smart phones, iPads and tablets now make it possible for all of us to do the same things, however we can do it anywhere!

Both kiosks and portable devices can provide benefits to your club. Let me give you some things to help you consider which choice is the right one for your club — a kiosk or portable device? (Don’t be surprised if you conclude that both are great choices).

First, consider the benefits or functions you would like either device to perform. Think about some of the interactions between your staff and members that could be handled by a kiosk or portable device. Here are some ideas: pay a balance, buy personal training, take a tour, learn about and purchase programs, join the club, book a court or change billing information. Next, take a look at your club management software to see what options are available. Many of the features of the software such as joining, managing a member account and scheduling are part of the software, but you need to see if they can be made readily accessible to your members on either device.

For things outside the scope of your software you should consider talking to a web designer or marketing company to handle videos and marketing messages. A mixture of software features and marketing can be applied to both a kiosk and portable device. Make sure that any approach that you take is secure from both the perspective of personal information and transaction security.

Now that you have identified the benefits and approach, next consider some pros and cons for the kiosk and portable device:

1. Will it create a self-service environment and reduce waiting time? When staff isn’t available, both options can offer someone the opportunity to help themselves. Keep in mind that wait times vary according to the number of kiosks or portable devices available at any given time.
2. Space/Location: Kiosks can be bulky and have to be placed in a location with a power supply (Those with Internet access will need to be configured on a separate network for security). Portable devices can be easily stored, recharged and taken anywhere.
3. Cost: The upfront investment for a kiosk may prove to be the pricier option from both a hardware and implementation perspective. Ongoing support can also be an additional cost.
4. Flexibility for updating: How hard will it be to get updates like changing offers and messages? Is there a cost for this as well?
5. Reliability: Some kiosks are like a computer terminal in a box. They may need to be rebooted periodically and can crash, which could lead to a negative interaction for your members, and heaven forbid, potential members. Portable devices also require updates and restarting, although not that frequent.
6. Implementation/ease of use: Put yourself in the shoes of your membership, would a kiosk be more familiar to your members than a portable device? To figure this out, you might need to setup a trial period for both options. Also keep in mind your staff, what will the learning curve be for them and would they be comfortable with either one?

The choice may not be easy and you may find need for both or none at all. Consult with industry marking professionals and your club management software to start. Determine whether or not your membership would adapt to either. Just keep in mind that technology will change and “self-service” options are expected more and more.

Susanne Nauseda has an exercise science degree that she put to use in the industry for 10 years prior to joining Twin Oaks Software, where she has worked for the last 12 years. You can reach her at 866.278.6750 or at snauseda@tosd.com.

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